Reflections on a Thesis (and What’s Next for Streaming Content)
I have always had a unique level of respect for the entrepreneurs who find a business opportunity by doing what others find trivial, boring, or even beneath them. Many amazing companies have been built by simply doing what others would not.
In many respects this is a justification for workflow automation, taking the critically important processes and tasks that are perceived to be mundane and building innovative solutions to solve those pain points. This was precisely why Matt Bernstein founded HubTran, it is why Jump invested in his business in 2018 and it is also why TriumphPay acquired HubTran earlier this year (and closed in June).
HubTran automates the back-office for the transportation industry, which is steeped in intricacies. Traditionally, these tedious paper-based processes, which could be solved through manual data-entry, have downstream impacts of high error rates, long processing times, but perhaps above all else, requires asking your employees to spend time on mundane tasks that do not highlight their intellect nor put their skillsets to proper use.
Jump’s investment in HubTran is part of our broader thesis around emergence of intelligent software and intelligent automation that incorporates the advances in machine learning to improve various types of workflow automation for large and mid-market enterprises. In short, we believe that automation doesn’t replace human capital, but rather enhances their productivity and reduces error rate. HubTran has done this for the back office of the transportation industry whereas a number of other companies in Jump’s portfolio are fulfilling this promise in other industries, including:
An often overlooked and underappreciated aspect of building this type of solution is what to automate, or more importantly, what not to automate. Building a workflow automation product rarely means automating the entire process and cutting out all human interaction. The answer to this complex question of what to automate and what to leave for the user can be approached from many angles but Matt, like many founders, lived it himself first.
The origin story of HubTran fits the mold of the classic founder narratives. Matt ran a 3PL and witnessed firsthand the friction in back-office processes due to the manual and paper-based approaches that still existed in 2015. He explored the external solutions before coming to the seminal realization that no one had yet created an effective alternative to paper-based approaches. When first meeting Matt, we gravitated to HubTran for this exact reason: he built a company to solve a longstanding problem that he had experienced and witnessed himself. He had insights into product development that could only be gathered from firsthand experience and related to customers in a very intimate way. With HubTran, he was able to solve the exact problems both he and his customers had experienced in the past.
In recent years, HubTran team built a multi-product platform, extensive transportation management system integrations, and an extremely loyal customer base. I cannot overestimate the stickiness of the HubTran solution. Although it is not a subscription business model, the retention metrics of HubTran are comparable to a best-in-class SaaS business. In the summer of 2020, their quality work led to a product integration partnership between HubTran and TriumphPay that, in hindsight, was the impetus of the relationship that would eventually lead to TriumphPay’s subsequent acquisition of HubTran.
This business development to corporate development produces some of the most successful outcomes for all parties. When two companies have the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship over time, it becomes evident whether there is strategic rationale for an acquisition –and the old school M&A adage of whether 1+1=3 becomes very straight forward. For HubTran and TriumphPay, the answer to that question was a crystal clear ‘hell yes it does,’ thus an acquisition took form.
The future of this combined business will be exciting to watch. When you dig into the details of the solutions they can now offer the industry in partnership, it is easy to see what the two companies saw. Simply put: it just makes a lot of sense to come together as one. FreigthWaves does an excellent job breaking it down in this interview.
We will miss our partnership with HubTran and I will personally miss Matt schooling me on the flows of global freight. It has truly been a pleasure to work with this team.
And if you are a founder building a workflow automation solution for a business process that is overdue for automation, please don’t be shy. We’d love to hear from you!