First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Inbal Axelrod: Thankfully, our family is safe and healthy during these hard times. We find great importance in following all the community guidelines, not just to keep ourselves safe but also not to endanger others. To be extra safe, we have been working from home and conducting any meetings over Zoom or on conference calls.
Working from home is not an issue for us. We believe in people, and we are all thankful for having a job to “go to.” However, work-home balance has been changed. Working from home and being a mother of four beautiful children can definitely be challenging at times, yet I’ve found that it has brought us more together as a family.
Because I have spent an unusual amount of time near the computer, my children like to peek over my shoulder from time to time to see what I’m doing. A few months ago, my son saw our mapping system and started asking me to allow him to plan a route. I figured it could be good for him to learn, so I started adding stops to the map and encouraged him to pick the shortest sequence. He was so excited that I thought it would be perfect as a game! So, we decided to develop a route planning game, and a month later, the MyRouteOnline mapping game was born! You should try it, or better yet, let your kids try. It’s really fun and not as easy as it seems.
Although it’s hard working at home as a mother, it’s exciting to see my kids start getting excited about the family business so early.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MyRouteOnline
Inbal Axelrod: It all started when my father, Dr. Axelrod, was struggling to plan multiple-stop routes during his many travels around the world. He got so frustrated that he utilized his Ph.D. in Computer Science to create a multi-stop routing system that would solve all of his issues at once. After years of perfecting his software, he began selling it to big food and beverage distribution companies in the United States who would fly him in just to install his software at their headquarters.
In the meantime, I helped a friend who owned a flower shop, and we met many challenges mapping out the delivery routes while making holiday deliveries. I remember using Google Maps and spending hours trying to plan out the most efficient routes for our deliveries. I had to insert each address separately and figure out the sequence of all the stops, yet, no matter what I tried, somehow, I would always end up costing extra labor hours or making mistakes along the way. Frustrated with all the challenges, I begged my father to figure out a way to apply his software to my situation.
In 2009, he developed an online system that is ideal for small businesses, and we named it MyRouteOnline. This system can effortlessly route as many as 1000 stops in the most cost and time-efficient way, considering every parameter one might need to meet while planning a route.
A few years later, as we realized people were adapting to mobile phones, we developed an accompanying mobile app that provides turn-by-turn navigation for the routes planned using our website.
How does MyRouteOnline innovate?
Inbal Axelrod: The Traveling Salesman Problem is one of the most intensely studied problems, in which one is required to find the cheapest way to visit all cities. Although there is no perfect solution, our proprietary and patented algorithm takes your address list and creates the best route or multiple routes for you.
Everything here is like magic. It always amazes me to see how fast, complicated routes can be created with our algorithm. To this, we’ve been adding more and more features to make our customers’ lives easier. After planning your routes, you can email them to your drivers, who can use our free smartphone app to assist with turn-by-turn navigation, as the sky’s the limit. As our CTO likes to say, “there is no such thing as impossible.”
With our outstanding customer service comes personal connections with customers. Being so close to our customers and making sure their experience with our system is the best brings us a lot of useful feedback. That way, we are able to constantly change our roadmap according to the feedback we receive.
We have users from all over the world, and different countries have different needs when addressing systems. For example, users in Pakistan complained about the difficulty in working with addresses, so we added the option to insert coordinates.
As soon as our team discovers a new innovative way to further serve our customers, we make sure to examine it and add it to our wish list. This way, we are constantly developing our system to be the best it can possibly be.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Inbal Axelrod: Covid-19 has hit a lot of companies hard in these past several months. Many companies are having to route fewer and fewer routes due to the pandemic lessening their output.
However, now more than ever, nonprofit organizations are being put into use globally to help those strongly impacted by the virus. In these hard times, we recognize the importance of supporting nonprofit organizations in their quest to help their communities.
Therefore, we are offering free access to our system for all nonprofit organizations during the pandemic.
Covid-19 has triggered more demand for many nonprofit delivery services. We provide free access to organizations that deliver anything from food and medicine to gifts of appreciation.
Social distancing has drastically changed many celebrations like birthdays, graduations, and even weddings. Many of those events have been replaced by drive-by parades or gift deliveries. Our software can easily help plan multi-stop routes for those Covid-19 style events.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Inbal Axelrod: The difficult choices we’ve made are the ones that eventually brought us to where we are today.
Our former business provided the same route optimization program but only for very large companies and franchises. This required trips around the world to physically install the program onto our customers’ servers. This obviously required a lot of resources, and therefore it was not realistic for small businesses. They could not afford to fly us in and didn’t need the entire package.
That’s when we realized that if we wanted to offer our system to small businesses (SOHO), we should offer our software as a service (SAAS). This meant that instead of trying to catch the big fish, we opened up a big net to catch all the small fish. At first, it wasn’t clear that this shift would justify itself, yet here we are, serving businesses all over the world.
Now, more than ever, I’m certain this was the right thing to do. Covid-19 has shown us that all businesses need to be creative to survive, and with our Route Planner, companies have the option to deliver their products and keep their costs low.
Who would have known that the skies would be closed, and no one could fly anywhere? I learned that creativity is magical. It opens up your mind and influences the course of events for the better, almost as if we have supernatural power.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and MyRouteOnline in the future?
Inbal Axelrod: I try to avoid stress. I lost my mother just before we started this business, and with her passing, I promised myself that I will always make sure to be where I want to be. I realized that life is short, and we need to make the most of it to be happy. I believe I’m following that promise.
On a business level, we try to make sure stress and anxiety do not affect our work in any way. Instead, we like to look at feedback as a place for us to grow and improve our product even more. We are constantly using our customers’ feedback to find ways to grow and improve our service.
In the future, I see our company developing game-changing routing features and technology. Our company will uphold its legacy of extraordinary customer service, continue to treat its customers as family, and help small businesses as much as possible.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Inbal Axelrod: I don’t see anyone as a competitor because I believe there is room for everybody.
Our company stands out by providing extraordinary customer service. Customer service is our main focus. We like to extend our sense of family and closeness to our customers globally. We receive praise about our support team, on every platform, in every review, and intend to keep it that way.
Other than our customer service, the versatility of our software stands out among the others. Our software can plan routes for driving, biking, or even walking. The route calculation considers all the small details like a flexible range of time for the driver’s lunch break, vehicle capacity, and even route overnight trips.
Additionally, our mobile app can navigate your route using multiple navigation apps (like Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps) that way, and you can select your favorite way to navigate.
Your final thoughts
Inbal Axelrod: Going through this pandemic is extremely intense for everyone. Now is the time to do anything you can to help businesses and people most affected by Covid-19.
MyRouteOnline is helping in the way we know best: Routing Software. During the pandemic, we are offering free access for all nonprofit organizations.
Nonprofits from Meals on Wheels to churches are benefiting from our system and becoming part of our MyRouteOnline family.
We wish everyone the best going forward during the pandemic and hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.
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