Asparuh Koev, founder of Transmetrics tells us how they optimize transport planning by leveraging the power of machine learning and predictive analytics.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Asparuh Koev: My wife and I are good, thanks for asking. We are very fortunate to both have jobs that are easy to adapt to living and working in the current conditions. The power of technology has enabled us to work remotely and be successful, though we miss traveling and are keen to get back to normal soon.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Transmetrics.
Asparuh Koev: I have been an entrepreneur since day 1. The first company I co-founded when I was still a university student – a software development shop in Bulgaria – was acquired by VMWare. My second company was working exclusively in and for Logistics, where I learned of the staggering inefficiencies there: 24% of trips on the road are completely empty; assets (trucks, containers) are used a third of the time; 20% of maintenance work is unneeded. So, I started Transmetrics to help improve on that with the power of AI and big data.
We started from the beginning by attracting logistics experts – we have a combined past experience of over 70 years working in logistics companies. To that, we added data scientists, data engineers, and software engineers. This team has created a platform dedicated to logistics, which uses the latest technology and research in artificial intelligence, big data, and predictive analytics to optimize planning. Some of the biggest logistics service providers in the world are using Transmetrics today.
How does Transmetrics innovate?
Asparuh Koev: We start with the customer problem. Every day we have multiple calls with logistics companies, where we talk about their problems – either with our sales or through our Voice of Customer program. With so much interaction, we notice patterns where multiple companies have the same planning problem. For example – managing complex planning in Excel. We call this a new “use case” proposal for the platform.
Then, we validate each use case – check if the market is big enough and the go-to-market is realistic, and that technically it will work. If we like the results, we add this new use case to our platform. We have 4 ready use cases today (linehaul planning, last-mile planning, asset positioning, asset maintenance). We are also looking at new ones, especially involving the Internet of Things (IoT).
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Asparuh Koev: COVID provided a massive boost to eCommerce and logistics in general, which also boosted the demand for our solutions. The pandemic also shortened global distances by making video conferencing more socially acceptable for B2B communication, which helped us to enlarge our geographical reach without travelling. The puzzle we must face is how to help as many clients as we can whilst keeping our service levels high and costs affordable. We never compromise on quality, so you can imagine that with newfound interest, the pressure is high. Our teams have delivered some truly remarkable results.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Asparuh Koev: Contrary to most sectors, we are actively hiring instead of letting go, so one of the biggest challenges we faced was the onboarding of new people. Software engineers are actually in higher demand now than before the crisis, so we learned how to do more with other professionals and really value software development time.
We also hired about 15 people since the start of COVID. It is a unique challenge to include new team members in the team and make sure the culture we value so much stays intact, despite working from home. Can you imagine that many of these new colleagues I have never seen face-to-face yet? We documented our company values to keep everyone tethered to one ethos. One of our HR managers wrote a very entertaining and thought-provoking article on this actually, so if anyone is interested, they can learn more on our blog.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Asparuh Koev: Due to our business model – SaaS – customers are only profitable for us if they use the software for a long time. Because of that, we invested early in customer success. For example, each customer gets their own project manager that steers the implementation to the point where they have proven and measured savings that pay the cost of the software at least 5 to 10 times.
Since COVID caused tectonic shifts in logistics, we also recently set up Voice of Customer meetings to listen to our clients. We take the time to understand their day-to-day struggles and keep an eye out for features we could improve or add to make the platform a better fit for their upcoming needs too.
I think it has worked well – it is proven by the fact that customers stay with us for the long term. All in all, we strive to be in an active and ongoing relationship with our customers, from the first to the last day that they use our platform. Often, we feel more like colleagues than like suppliers.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Asparuh Koev: We did receive funding from the EU in the form of a Horizon 2020 grant, which we were fortunate p win among fierce competition shortly before the pandemic. In hindsight, the business would have stayed afloat even without the grant, but it helped us to grow the company and address the new demand that appeared.
Your final thoughts?
Asparuh Koev: COVID has been a significant disruptive factor in our daily lives. Some companies got a boost; others were held back. Looking forward, I think the upcoming transition from COVID back to normal will likely introduce another seismic wave of change in all businesses. The companies that are prepared to capture the opportunity with maximum adaptivity will be the true leaders of tomorrow. I wish all of us to be among them.
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