Dyersburg, Tenn. native David Roberts earned a degree in Environmental Science and Economics from Harvard prior to joining to the Marine Corps. Today he is an entrepreneur working to disrupt the shipping industry.
Roberts has spent the past three months commuting to Memphis as part of the EPIcenter
's 2016 Logistics Innovation Accelerator, building his company IShipdit
Roberts spent time as a truck driver after the military, noting that most of his runs were not full. "I found it wasteful. Fast forward a few years I had my own factory and I was paying exorbitant rates for shipping and I put two and two together and came up with iShipdit."
iShipdit is an online platform that auctions off unused freight space in semi trucks. "Most trucks on the road are not filled to capacity," explained Roberts. "Our system measures the spaces available and matches them with cargo that is heading to the same place. It allows freight to hitchhike with other freight, which ends up saving time and money while allowing truckers to earn more revenue."
Drivers and shippers will be able to rate each other, something that has never been done in the shipping industry.
Smaller manufacturers and wholesale distributers are iShipdit's target customers.
The company is developing a camera system that sits in the back of a trailer and electronically measures the available space, which Roberts holds the patent for.
"When you start thinking of shipping as a capacity issue instead of a cargo issue, that's when things really start to become efficient in terms of maximum profitability," explained Roberts.
As for the market for his company, he aims to build it himself. "Before Air BNB came along no one thought about renting a room nightly, they created a market. eBay created a market and so did Uber. That's what I aim to do."
The Logistics Innovation Accelerator provides participants with an intense, mentorship focused program where they learn the ins and outs of launching a business. Having already created businesses, Roberts cites the networking aspect as the most beneficial to him. "There is a huge logistics base in and out of Memphis that I was not privy to prior to going through the accelerator," he said. "It would have been much more difficult to dive into the local logistics base on my own."
The accelerator program will wrap on August 11 with Memphis Demo Day, where the entrepreneurs will present their businesses to investors and community supporters and leaders. Post accelerator Roberts aims to keep an office in Memphis and continue to work on building his platform.
"One of the things that is tricky about running a platform like this is dealing with two customer groups who have to create value for each other. Balancing these two groups will be my greatest struggle."
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