Y Combinator: Dan Lewis, CEO of Convoy, on the Future of Freight

  • How did you come up with the idea for Convoy? It comes from my early life. My family ran a mom and pop office supply company. I’d drive a truck and make deliveries. A few years later I was working at Amazon. One of the ideas that inspired me was realizing that Amazon was winning based on the supply chain.

  • The opportunity for Convoy: There a lot of logistics companies that were focused on the last mile. There were not a lot of companies focused on the middle mile. The middle mile is getting everything in the right place so you can do that same-day delivery.

  • Talking to other people is the fastest way to learn [and avoid mistakes]: To learn more about the industry I wrote to 100 people. One-third of them were from my network. Two-thirds of them I found on LinkedIn. All of them worked in transportation. Then I’d get them on the phone.

  • Convoy is a marketplace between truck drivers and shippers. A lot of people want to know how to start a marketplace. How did you do it at the beginning?I did a copious amount of research. That produced lists of drivers and lists of shippers. The drivers weren’t interested because we didn’t have any loads yet. [Loads are paying jobs for the drivers]. So we started with shippers first. Shippers would give us a load and we’d have 48 hours to pick it up. Then we went back to the drivers with actual paying jobs. Every job was a marketing opportunity.

  • How Convoy thought about expanding: We looked at where our existing customers wanted to run freight next. [Marc Andreessen’s principle of product design: Let your users innovate]

  • Where did your first 5 hires come from? I previously worked at a startup that was acquired by Google. I recruited a few from there and a few people that were working at Amazon.

  • Convoy’s mission: To transport the world with endless capacity and zero waste. 40% of the time trucks run empty. If we can solve that problem we can reduce waste, improve economics, and improve the service of transportation.

  • Guiding principles of Convoy: (1) Know why. If you don’t know why you can’t act independently. You lack the context to get things done. (2) Love problems, not solutions. It’s better to reorient around the original problem you are trying to solve instead of the solution you came up with. 

  • Why Convoy has a written part of their interview process: We learn how they write, which is an incredibly important skill for most jobs. We also learn how they structure information, how thorough they are, how serious they approached the opportunity.

  • Full podcast here.