Khaled Naim: CEO & Co-Founder, Onfleet

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Khaled Naim is CEO and Co-Founder at Onfleet, which makes it easy for businesses to manage local delivery operations. Khaled holds an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and a BE in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan, and grew up between London and Dubai. Khaled is based in San Francisco, California.

How did you get into the industry?

My co-founders and I started working together during graduate school at Stanford University. We initially came together solve a problem that plagues delivery businesses in emerging markets: lack of functional street addresses. Growing up in the Middle East, it was clear to me that this problem caused a lot of friction for e-commerce and last-mile delivery businesses, ultimately driving up delivery costs. We went through Stanford’s accelerator program, StartX, and worked on this project, which we called ‘Addy’, for over one year. Over time, we realized that we really needed to be on the ground in our target markets as it proved too difficult to iterate quickly with our customers all the way from Silicon Valley. We also realized that there was an even more fundamental problem facing online retailers and delivery services: lack of technology. Most of the companies we were talking to were using archaic systems, primarily pen and paper, spreadsheets, phone calls, and text messages. We knew there had to be a better way, and decided to build a smartphone-based delivery logistics platform to help these businesses run more efficiently. Enter Onfleet.

Any emerging industry trends?

The industry is moving at light speed, with progress coming on many different fronts. Consumers are now expecting much more than ever before: faster delivery, with real-time tracking and status updates, at lower costs. A variety of relevant technologies are evolving rapidly to address this need: IoT (sensors), algorithms (route optimization), rich web-based dashboards and interfaces, autonomous vehicles and drones, warehouse robotics, smartphone penetration. The list goes on. Each of these areas are seeing rapid progress, creating an exciting, dynamic environment for online retail and ultimately leading to major benefits for consumers around the world.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The industry is ripe with both opportunities and challenges. In fact, the challenges breed the opportunities. The simple act of moving goods from A to B in the physical world is a difficult problem. From hiring and retaining drivers to dealing with exceptions in the field, tracking assets and drivers in real-time, and optimizing routes to improve efficiency, logistics is notoriously difficult. That’s where we saw the opportunity: our goal is to make last-mile delivery delightful and efficient, through intuitive, well-designed technology for drivers and dispatchers. On the horizon, we see exciting opportunities to drive efficiencies by helping merchants and retailers leverage existing driver networks, autonomous vehicles, and drones, ultimately reducing costs by orders of magnitude. There are certainly regulatory hurdles and other challenges to overcome along the way, but I’m very confident we’ll get there before most people are anticipating.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

While we were working on Addy a few years ago, we realized that the online retailers and last-mile delivery businesses with whom we were working were struggling to keep up with rising consumer expectations due to lack of technology. The vast majority of them were, and still are, using archaic methods to manage their delivery operations. At the same time, being at the epicenter of technology and innovation, we noticed many businesses popping up around us that were leveraging smartphones to more efficiently manage fleets of drivers. From food and beverage delivery services to prescription pharmaceuticals, flowers, and laundry, these companies were able to operate more efficiently and scale rapidly by utilizing routing, tracking, and dispatching technology that they developed in-house. We noticed a lot of “reinventing of the wheel” happening, with significant resource allocation necessary to build the same technology at each of these companies, so we saw an opportunity to build an infrastructure layer that would help businesses focus on their core competency instead of building the logistics software themselves. Long term, we see an opportunity to drive tremendous efficiencies by connecting the dots across businesses to help retailers outsource deliveries to third-party driver networks and, eventually, autonomous fleets.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

Consumer expectations are rising faster than ever, and retailers are eager to find ways to address their needs. Today, Onfleet powers tens of thousands of deliveries every day, for hundreds of businesses in over 50 countries around the world.  It’s clear that this is a global movement, and we plan to continue growing our SaaS business in the US and internationally.

We are continuing to build the team, currently hiring more engineers, so our product continues to be the market leading solution for last-mile delivery management. We will soon be launching analytics for drivers, so each driver can see historical metrics about their work. We also consider customer success and support to be very core to our operations, so we’ll be building out that team over the coming months.

Lastly, we are starting to work with some of our customers to help them outsource their deliveries to a network of third-party delivery service providers powered by, or integrated with, Onfleet. Many of these clients have their own fleet of drivers, but occasionally seek to outsource a portion of their deliveries to handle spikes in demand or cases where drivers don’t show up for work. The Onfleet delivery network is an area of great interest for us over the long term, and we’ll be making some exciting announcements on this front in the near future!

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Product innovation. We are a very product and engineering focused team, and we believe this is critical in today’s SaaS environment. When companies are looking for the right solution for something like delivery management, they typically look at everything that’s out there, even trying many different solutions, before making a decision. It’s a big decision, and a very important one, so the success of our business depends on winning customers when they have tried everything else out there. We do this by offering the simplest, most intuitive solution, with the most powerful features, while providing world class support. It’s no easy feat, but our customer satisfaction ratings and customer testimonials indicate that we’ve been able to do this successfully, and we continue to improve every day.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?

Early on, shortly after we launched Onfleet, we didn’t have very robust infrastructure in place. We ended up going down a few times, which really affected our customers’ operations. It really hurts when we disappoint our customers, as they’re the reason we exist. When we go down, they go down with us. We learned to prioritize stability and reliability, and I’m glad to say we haven’t had any major outages in the past year. We aim for a 99.99% uptime, and have achieved this consistently.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Onfleet really enables our customers to manage their operations more efficiently, with fewer resources, which ultimately allows them to scale. We love seeing our customers start adopting our software and rapidly scaling across multiple geographies. With Onfleet, our clients can focus on their core product, whether it’s making food, building a marketplace, or running a national retail chain, rather than worrying about developing logistics software in-house or managing drivers with spreadsheets and text messages.

How do you motivate others?

At Onfleet, we believe the greatest motivation comes from working on interesting, challenging problems. Last-mile delivery logistics is very challenging, and there is no shortage of problems that need solving. By constantly raising the bar and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with today’s technology, we are able to hire incredibly talented people, which has a positive reinforcement effect on the team’s motivation. While we work very hard, we also know how to have fun and enjoy spending time with each other outside of work. We think of our team as our second family.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Surround yourself with people smarter than you, who you can learn from. If you do that, you’ll be inundated with great advice and feedback. At the same time, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was “don’t take too much advice.” It’s easy for people to share their ‘two cents’, but you’ll quickly be overwhelmed with often conflicting information and need to make sense of it yourself. It’s important to know when to trust your instincts and go with your gut.