After Course Correction, FreightForge Finds The Path To Profit


“Low overhead” can sometimes be a scary thing, signifying an impediment that will prevent a large vehicle from passing underneath.

But in financial terms, low overhead is exactly what FreightForge is depending on to move its growing operation – and the freight industry – forward.

Chris Wilkins has spent much of his career focusing on that very objective, with two decades of experience in transportation tech. By his own admission, he’s had plenty of swings and misses, but the seasoned entrepreneur feels he has a hit with his latest venture, a platform for matching up carriers and shippers in real-time.

Formed in collaboration with co-founders Harold Bosse and Nicholas Broncure in Brussels, FreightForge launched about 18 months ago, with Wilkins holding down the U.S. side from their Minneapolis Headquarters.

The model is fairly straightforward: it’s a digital marketplace that matches available freight loads to carriers within the system based on a set of parameters (origin destination, equipment required, temperature controls, etc.), and then allows blind bidding for the jobs. Win the gig, take the freight, and pay a small fee to FreightForge (half a percent of the bid amount).

“My goal is to create something that works for both transportation companies and shippers, not one or the other,” says Wilkins.

This tool can do just that, he argues, through adding efficiency and cost savings on both ends. It quickly connects carriers to shippers on spot transactions – one-time jobs based on an immediate need that arises. Wilkins says these types of shipments tally up to $325 billion of the $750 billion in annual freight spend in the United States, so the market is sizeable.

He admits the business got off to a sluggish start for the first year or so, with the low number of bids on jobs taking him by surprise. After investigating, he learned carriers preferred to go through brokers, valuing the relationships and trust. So FreightForge made a pivot and started working directly with the brokers (rather than replacing them), and now the company is seeing stronger traction.

Cutting down overhead is the value proposition for customers, as well, because FreightForge places the opportunities directly in front of them. No searching, no calling, no emailing – just acquire the job in real-time and make it happen. In some cases this means one less person to employ, which is particularly critical for FreightForge’s target clientele: small- to mid-sized brokers currently at risk of being pushed out by the industry’s heavy hitters.

He’s adamant about helping even the playing field.

“I think the industry is failing,” Wilkins says, “and destroying small- to mid-sized companies. We want them to have an alternative.”

This motivation drives him, why he insists he’d have no interest in being bought out by a big fish like Uber or Amazon, both of which are developing technologies in the same vein.