Andy Tomka was at his breaking point. “I couldn’t take it anymore,” he said.
Now the VP of product for MVMNT, which provides a transportation management system for freight brokers, Tomka had known there was a dire need for a better tech interface than what was currently in the market.
“This all started when a company built software for a shipper or carrier consumer and then asked out loud, ‘Who else can we sell this to? Someone said, ‘I know, boss! Brokers.’ And that guy looked like a hero,” said Tomka, theorizing on why software for brokers hasn’t been effective (because it was built for shippers). “I know why brokerage software was garbage for its customers, and after years of looking at the products it got to me.”
The idea of a transportation management system is not exactly new. A lot of goods in the United States need to be moved from place to place with trucks: roughly 72.6 percent of the nation’s freight, according to the American Trucking Association.
Right now, the way most shipments find a truck is through a broker. The manufacturer will call a shipping broker, explain what needs to be moved and the deadline, then the broker arranges a truck and a driver to meet that need. An article in TechCrunch notes that the financials of this arrangement often lead to the details being hammered out through fax, phone and in spreadsheets.
This is where MVMNT saw an opportunity to make a TMS that offered a new level of ease and versatility.
“Brokers need technology to help them run their business, but they are not usually technologists,” said Tomka. “The technology they can access is a copy of another segment of the U.S. transportation markets platform, and that is just not how they need to operate. I needed to build the product because consumers of brokerage tech are being sold a lemon.”
“I needed to build the product because consumers of brokerage tech are being sold a lemon.”
“There are other TMSs in the space, but with MVMNT, small- to medium-sized freight brokers are the hero of our story,” said VP of Engineering Mark Greshammer.
Greshammer went on to say that the pedigree of MVMNT is in freight brokerage. The company has fine-tuned what is needed in a TMS for mid-sized freight brokers to thrive, compete and win against larger brokerages. This kind of direct attention to a specific customer base is what sets MVMNT apart.
“I’m a maniac about our customers,” added Tomka. “When I came in, I was like, ‘This is wrong, this is wrong and that is also wrong. Why would anyone use this product?’ We needed to build a TMS platform that ran right at the problems of logistics tech and not deliver another oversimplified narrative on what supply chain tech should be.”
Tomka sees himself as the voice of the customer during product design. “Our TMS is highly complex, and as a result, it is very much a relationship business,” he added.
What Makes it Different
Even though shipping is rapidly growing — the freight shipping market is projected to grow from 11.09 billion tons in 2021 to 13.19 billion tons in 2028, according to Fortune Business Insights — it remains behind in terms of technology and user experience, especially for brokers.
“The freight industry is lacking a practical, efficient TMS that is affordable yet highly functional,” said Director of Engineering Stuart Fettinger. “MVMNT has a unique approach to a TMS that puts the actual, not the perceived, needs of a brokerage first. Our customers appreciate how well we get what they do, and how well our product complements their business rather than trying to change it.”
“Our customers appreciate how we get what they do, and how well our product complements their business rather than trying to change it.”
The sentiment is shared across the company.
“Transportation technology has been well invested in over the past 10 years, but unfortunately for our customers, those investments haven’t helped them create more valuable businesses,” said Tomka.
He added that MVMNT’s TMS platform is being built to complement the U.S. domestic brokerage business. “The product team started with the fantastical functions we wanted to unlock at a brokerage business,” said Tomka. “We then returned to the practical functions we needed to build to help our customers realize those opportunities.”
“We are excited about our TMS,” added Greshammer. “It is the core of our product offering and sets us in a unique space with a focus on enabling freight brokers with world- class technology.”
Collaboration into Creation
During the product design process, the voice of the customer was front and center during the team’s collaboration.
“Just like a supply chain needs to be a sum of parts and not an individual effort, building supply chain tech needs to be cross-functional,” said Tomka. “All parts of MVMNT are used to launch products.”
Tomka explained how engineering, design and product put the pieces together, while marketing, sales and operations managed the launch and created the critical customer feedback loop.
“Agility and the ability to adapt on the fly is critical at our stage, and our entire team bought into keeping that as a core strategy for delivery,” said Fettinger.
Fettinger noted that the product, design and leadership teams worked closely to make sure that the end product matched with the company vision. With fewer than 30 team members as of 2023, the nimble environment makes clear communication that much more important.
“We are a startup where cross-team communication is paramount,” said Greshammer. “With that, we embrace agile methodologies that involve traditional daily stand-ups, team retros, planning sessions and sprint demonstrations.”
The sprints are a great way to get visibility on the team’s progress across the organization, according to Greshammer — especially for folks that are not part of the day-to-day of the product.
“We also solicit feedback across the cross-functional team through discovery and design review sessions,” he added.
Greshammer noted that there were several big milestones along the way, such as the teams’ first sprint kickoff in January and seeing the first version of the TMS available online to enable sales.
However, the biggest moment by far was seeing the first customer on the platform.
“We’ve iteratively launched the product, so it hasn’t been a big-bang approach,” explained Fettinger, noting that they rolled their first customer on “as a team, with everyone supporting the effort.”
The initial rollout happened quietly for now, but the team plans to celebrate more as features come out in 2024.
“Launch day was quiet, but it won't be like that for long,” concluded Tomka. “Logistics brokerage is an industry that loves noise. They play loud music at work and celebrate sales wins by banging large gongs. Looking at 2023, it was all about delivering expectations.”