By Nancy Dahlberg
Earlier today, RyderVentures announced its first fund investment: SmartHop, a Miami-tech startup that built a AI-powered dispatch solution that helps owner-operators of small trucking companies grow their businesses. RyderVentures participated in SmartHop’s $12 million Series A round, led by Union Square Ventures.
RyderVentures is the corporate venture fund of the homegrown logistics giant, Ryder System. It launched last fall and is targeting $50 million in startup investments over the next five years. “With RyderVentures, our goal is to identify earlier in the process those new technologies that address our customers’ pain points and work alongside the startups developing them to speed the solutions to market,” Karen Jones, Ryder’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president of new product innovation, said at the time of launch in October 2020. RyderVentures joins a growing number of industry-specific funds in South Florida, including Watsco Ventures, propelling innovation in the HVAC industry, and LAB Ventures Proptech Fund, aimed at real estate.
For several years, Ryder also has been working with Plug and Play, the global innovation platform that brings together startups and large corporations and will be opening a Miami office, to accelerate the development of emerging technologies. “With their decades of expertise and engaged executive mentorship, Ryder knows how to help startups maximize potential,” Plug and Play VP Farzin Shadpour said last year when RyderVentures was announced.
Case in point: Ryder has been working with SmartHop CEO Guillermo Garcia on pilot testing for a couple of years, which started after Ryder’s Jones saw Garcia present his business while he was preparing for a conference pitch opportunity, and was instantly impressed. “Then when we launched RyderVentures, we had another reason to talk to him -- about a potential investment relationship,” said Jones, who is pictured above.
In light of the inaugural investment in SmartHop – read that story here – I reached out to Jones to find out more about Ryder’s interactions with SmartHop and what’s next for the new Miami-based corporate venture fund.
Congratulations on your first investment. Any more coming down the pike soon?
We actually have a couple more investments that we're not privy to announcing yet, but we've [chosen] two so far, and a lot more are in the pipeline. It's really been a great opportunity though to work with SmartHop. I think what's great about RyderVentures is that we're able to invest in these companies and we're hoping to create winners. We helped him perfect a lot of his technology before he rolled it out officially And I think that's one of the benefits of partnering with us -- we have a fleet of 275,000 trucks, we have supply chain, we have dedicated business and we're able to help a lot of these startups really perfect their product before they take it to market. [With SmartHop] it was kind of a match made in heaven and we're betting on Guillermo to lead this thing forward and really create an awesome business.
What does RyderVentures look for in your investments?
We have a couple of areas that we started several years ago putting focus around -- disruptive technologies in a couple of areas. One was electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, the next generation, soo we're looking at technologies around anything to do with that. We also have a heavy focus in e-commerce fulfillment. In addition, we have the area of asset sharing and capacity sharing. So, Guillermo hits on a couple of the buttons there.
We also created our own startup internally with a product called COOP by Ryder, where businesses can actually leverage each other's trucks for rental. We call it the Airbnb meets match.com for trucks. Basically, you can rent from businesses who aren't optimizing their vehicles or their vehicles would be sitting idle. You can actually rent from another business versus going to a traditional rental counter. And then the last area is really around digitizing the transportation logistics supply chain, if you will, and the data and analytics around that.
Those four areas are really important to us and technologies that would evolve transportation and logistics around that would be really key and that's what we focus on. I'm not going to say we wouldn't look outside of that, but we try to keep it very focused, in line with our strategic vision for the company. I think SmartHop met a couple of those buttons. one is really around capacity and proving out the capacity model. Two is around data and analytics for fleets. And so, it just had all the right ear markings for us. We're excited for the Smart Hub team and to see what what they can do.
Besides the financial component, what else comes along with an investment from RyderVentures?
We have this saying we like to create winners, and part of a way of creating that is not only the financial investment but it's in being able to leverage the vastness of Ryder. We have over 50,000 customers that do business with us across all of our segments in business. And I think what's interesting is a lot of the startup companies are really great at technology, they've perfected technology, but not many of them have the ability to implement that technology in a real world environment easily. And so, partnering with Ryder enables them the access through our different businesses to be able to perfect their product, which is kind of a great, great thing. That's what we bring to the game besides just money.
Startups interested in finding out more or reaching out to RyderVentures can do so here.
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