Khaled Naim is co-founder and CEO at Onfleet, the leading last-mile delivery management software platform. He holds an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, a BE in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan, and is based in San Francisco, California.
Tell us about the early days of Onfleet.
In the Fall of 2011, I started my MBA program at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. At the time, I was working on a side project with Mikel Carmenes Cavia, a friend of mine from high school (Onfleet‘s Co-Founder & VP Engineering). We were exploring potential solutions to problems using AI / Machine Learning (primarily, sentiment analysis at the time). Shortly after starting my MBA, I met David Vetrano (Onfleet’s Co-Founder & CTO). He had just started his MS in Computer Science with a focus on AI and Machine Learning. The three of us started working together on various projects. One day, we decided to have some fun and attend a Startup Weekend in Palo Alto.
At the Startup Weekend, I pitched a concept for a location-based services product that could help people in emerging markets communicate locations more easily. Much of the world’s population lacks a functional physical street address, which makes it difficult for delivery services (and other services such as emergency services) to find them easily. Often, recipients of deliveries in these markets must communicate turn-by-turn directions with drivers, using obscure landmarks and points of interest to direct them step by step. Our solution was Addy – a simple, URL-based addressing system. Anyone in the world could go to our website and create a short, custom URL that represents their physical location. The idea was that they could share this URL with a friend or a business to eliminate the hassle of turn-by-turn directions. Ultimately, it was a mapping from lat/lng coordinates to a URL. We went through Stanford’s StartX program and raised some friends and family funding on the back of this concept.
Along the way, we learned a lot about the last mile delivery space, and the challenges that we never realized existed. We learned that most businesses were still using pen and paper processes: spreadsheets, text messages, and chat apps, to manage fleets. We knew there had to be a better way. At the same time, we witnessed the emergence of smartphone-based driver apps to power in-house fleets of companies like Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash, and many others. We believed that the prevalence in last mile delivery services, driven by rising consumer expectations, would continue across the world and we knew we could build an infrastructure to support this emerging industry: to help businesses deliver goods to consumers efficiently, and to offer a delightful customer experience, without needing to continuously reinvent the wheel and build everything in-house. We could build the driver apps, routing algorithms, real-time tracking and analytics capabilities, and the communications layer to allow businesses to focus on their core competency and on their customers.
We built a quick and scrappy prototype of “Trak”, and quietly rolled it out to local businesses. We went door to door, talking to restaurants, dispensaries, and startups in San Francisco, and it was clear that we needed to focus our efforts on this business. Trak was rebranded to Onfleet shortly thereafter, and we launched to the public in April 2015. Given our strong early traction, we were able to raise $2 million from some great early stage funds and angel investors such as CrunchFund, Winklevoss Capital, Stanford-StartX Fund, dunnhumby Ventures, Playfair Capital, Haystack, Lee Linden, Andy Rachleff, and Gil Penchina. We have since gone on to raise over $5 million in total funding.
Today, Onfleet is a profitable business that powers millions of deliveries per month for thousands of businesses around the world.