Lidia Yan is the CEO and Co-Founder of NEXT Trucking. NEXT is taking on one of the largest industries alive, the $800 billion trucking industry, and has brought in some of the biggest venture firms to back her.
NEXT is a technology platform connecting shippers with carriers. Beyond truckload long haul, NEXT is innovating solutions for drayage and port operations.
NEXT is venture-backed by investors including Sequoia Capital and Brookfield Ventures. In January 2019, they closed $97M in Series C funding, bringing them to $125M in total funding.
Listen to the full discussion here:
Some of the highlights from the podcast:
- NEXT – the APPLE of trucking
- How NEXT achieved profitability in their first year
- Rapid scaling from 100 to more than 200 employees
- How it is to be a female in a male-dominated industry
- The USD60 billion DRAYAGE market
- Work for a cause, not for applause and seek respect not attention because it lasts longer.
- [01:32] Tell us a little bit about the beginnings of NEXT Trucking.
- [01:52] The company’s mission is to empower truck drivers to drive the way they want, when they want and how they want.
- [03:34] After talking to many drivers, we came up with NEXT Trucking, a marketplace that connects shippers with carriers and we use more matching technology to make the flow of goods from ship to shelf easier for shippers and more profitable for drivers.
- [05:17] Tell us a little bit about your target clients and value proposition specifically for NEXT Trucking. How do you add the most value?
- [05:31] On the shipper side, we primarily focus on enterprise shippers, fortune 500 companies, including six of the top 10 in America. On the carrier side, small trucking companies account for 90% of the market. And on the operator’s side, small fleets with less than six trucks who don’t have the resources or software and who were underappreciated in the past.
- [07:49] What we did is to predict what the drivers want according to their behavior and historical data. We put the drivers on the loads that they want to haul so we can reduce the time they spend negotiating and increase the efficiency.
- [08:17] Why did you choose to focus on drayage?
- [08:56] We focus on drayage which is a $60 billion market, extremely fragmented, lack of technology and the most complex sector in trucking. There are a lot of moving pieces and tons of stakeholders and a lot of players but they don’t share data.
- [11:45] How did you manage to get profitable so fast? What were the main success factors?
- [11:50] One is we focus on truck drivers because the shortage is the number one problem of our industry. We lack 50,000 truck drivers at this point and may reach up to over a hundred thousand truck drivers in the next five years.
- [12:30] We put the majority of our focus on the supply side to make sure that NEXT has enough supply and it has quality supply. Because our goal is to build an Apple in trucking.
- [13:32] Is there something else that you did on top of ‘ensuring high-quality drivers’ that made you achieved that level of making the business profitable?
- [15:17] I think being very focused and being very original driven is really something that sets NEXT apart from the rest of the players in the market.
- [16:18] What would be some of the biggest challenges that you faced when it comes to your operations?
- [16:33] We’re scaling at an incredible pace. So since June of this year, we’ve doubled our head count to more than 200 employees. So there were many new people coming on board and it was a challenge to establish consistency across the board.
- [17:01] We have six major values that guide the company and we make sure that we bring people that shares the company values. And we can also grow our talent base with the same principles.
- [18:08] Was there any other principle of fast scaling that you follow to help you navigate such fast growth?
- [18:33] I think when we reached about a hundred people in the company, we do see a shift of culture and we assemble a culture committee. It includes people not only from an executive team but those who are interested in shaping the company’s culture.
- [20:46] How is it for you to be a woman in this world of truckers and shipping lines? Does gender matter? Did you get any challenges around that?
- [23:48] Why did you decide to move from China to the US?
- [25:12] I had the education in China that focuses on discipline and memorizing the knowledge and I think American education led me to be more creative and open-minded.
- [27:30] Before you started NEXT Trucking, you had a few businesses. What are some of the learnings you got from that, that helped you build NEXT Trucking?
- [29:07] I learned that speed is the only competitive advantage. We had great ideas, we have great executions, we understand transportation and moving goods, but we didn’t move fast enough; and we didn’t raise money fast enough.
- [31:10] How do you attract and find the right talent to come to NEXT and take the company to the next level?
- [31:58] We have talent in the office who are truly passionate about what we’re doing. And we also encourage our tech team to go on a truck to sit with the drivers and spend a day to understand the life of the people.
- [33:52] You spoke in the past about having one particular top million dollar question that you want people to answer during interviews with NEXT. Tell us a little bit about that question and why is it so important?
- [34:46] I wanted to hear people who give me honest answers because it’s very difficult for people to really confront themselves and provide genuine feedback. I think self-awareness is a great quality for a human being because if you have that, you will be able to improve yourself.
- [37:32] What’s your thought on diversity in the industry firsthand being a woman in that position?
- [37:41] Diversity is super important and in NEXT 40% of our employees are women.
- [39:15] What do you think as an industry we can do more to encourage diversity?
- [42:32] What’s the best advice you’ve got in your trajectory and career as an entrepreneur that could help other people that are considering embarking on a similar journey?
- [42:46] Work for a cause, not for applause and seek respect not attention because it lasts longer.