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Onward Delivery raises $4.7M to bring efficiencies to box truck market

Freight marketplace Onward Delivery announced earlier this month that it has closed on an oversubscribed $4.7 million seed round led by Range Ventures and Matchstick Ventures as the company works to automate final-mile delivery for bulky retail items by leveraging its box truck network. 

Springtime Ventures also participated in the round, as did a number of industry angel investors, including Andrew Leto, founder and CEO of Emerge; Jett McCandless, founder and CEO of project44; Sean Henry, founder and CEO of STORD; James Eberhard, founder and CEO of Fluid Truck; Mark Joseph, former CEO of Transdev North America; and Leo Polovets, general partner at Susa Ventures.

“Onward is leveraging their deep experience in the box truck delivery industry to build a technology solution that not only improves the lives of drivers but can drastically reduce carbon emissions for our industry,” McCandless told FreightWaves of his investment.

Grafton Elliott, the co-founder and CEO of Onward, told FreightWaves the idea for the company came after witnessing a number of inefficiencies and defragmentation procuring box trucks for retailers during his time in various leadership roles at his previous logistics company, CDS Logistics Management.

“We hit a wall where we could not get that business any better because we did not have the shipment density to make the box truck market more efficient and scale a better routing system for them,” said Ellliott. “Brokers, including the one I was at, would partner with these companies directly and it was creating extreme fragmentation, which affected not just deliveries but technology to make the box truck market more efficient.”

Funding details Onward Delivery
Funding amount $4.7 million
Funding round Seed
Lead investors Range Ventures and Matchstick Ventures
Secondary investors Springtime Ventures, Andrew Leto, Jett McCandless, Sean Henry, James Eberhard, Mark Joseph, Leo Polovets
Post-money valuation $13.93 million*
Total funding $4.7 million
*According to Pitchbook

Elliott went on to describe witnessing two different box truck companies coming in to pick up two different home deliveries for a large home improvement retailer. Both trucks were headed to the same area but using double the capacity, including twice as much energy, to deliver two shipments that could go on one truck.

“That is what Onward is looking to fix,” said Elliott. “We don’t partner with one asset, we partner with all box truck assets in a region and we aggregate the totality of orders to be sure that there is one full truck delivering to one ZIP code.”

The Denver-based company currently is operating in Colorado, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio and Indiana, servicing over 70 retail stores, many within the furniture niche.

Onward plans to expand into Texas, Georgia, Florida and California in 2022, something that Elliott said has become easier to accomplish as the company continues to add more density to its carrier network.

“We don’t need to recruit too many assets when we are going into new markets. We are just tapping into existing assets that are already on the road, which allows us to scale faster,” Elliott said. “Using our technology, we can unite these assets, many of which are smaller mom-and-pop companies and make their assets more efficient.”

Not only can the company help these box truck companies grow and scale, Onward’s marketplace gives retailers the option to promise same-day deliveries to customers.

“What gets me excited about our business is just by opening up available box truck capacity, consumers who are hours and hours away from big city centers can start getting an Amazon level of service, which has got our retailers excited as well,” said Elliott.

With its new funds, Onward plans to add approximately 20 employees to its team of about 10, everything from salespeople to expand its carrier and customer network to engineers to continue building out its platform and add more features for retailers and delivery companies.

Some of these upcoming features will include automated scheduling, real-time tracking and automated billing.

“In the big and bulky market, 75% of deliveries are still managed using pen and paper. 85% of deliveries are completed without real-time tracking visibility. These features will be huge strides towards fully digitizing the process” said Elliott. “This is one thing we have truly learned from our investors and advisers; you have to be conscientious of what [shippers and carriers] find valuable when building technology for them.”

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