MacroPoint Founder Talks Freight Tech’s Evolution at Descartes
Episode Transcript
DD Spotify DD Apple Podcast

This episode features Dan Cicerchi, GM of Transportation Management Solutions at Descartes, discussing freight tech innovation, relationship building, and learnings from his experience co-founding MacroPoint. He provides insights on supply chain visibility, actionable data, and advice for startups on focusing on customer needs and profitability. He also shares his perspective on tech’s role in logistics.




Are you experienced in freight sales or already an independent freight agent? Listen to our Freight Agent Trenches interview series powered by SPI Logistics to hear directly from the company’s agents on how they took the leap and found a home with SPI freight agent program.

Maximize your website’s performance and security with Digital Dispatch’s web hosting and management.



Everything is Logistics is a podcast for the thinkers in freight. Follow the podcast to never miss an episode.

Follow EIL host Blythe Brumleve on social: LinkedIn | TikTok | YouTube

Show Transcript

See full episode transcriptTranscript is autogenerated by AI

Blythe Brumleve: 0:05

Welcome into another episode of Everything Is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight. We are proudly presented by SPI Logistics and I am your host, Blythe Brumleve. I'm happy to welcome in Dan Cicerchi. He is the GM and VP of Transportation Management Solutions over at Decartes and we're going to be talking about overall freight market, how technology and ocean shipping has a trickle down effect into the wider freight market. We're entering in peak season, so there's a lot of moving parts going on. So, dan, welcome into the show, excited to dive in.

Dan Cicerchi: 0:37

Great Thanks for the invitation, Blythe. Good to be here.

Blythe Brumleve: 0:41

Absolutely. Now. You have a very extensive background within the freight industry. Of course you know co-founding MacroP oint and but I'm curious as to what happened before macro point. How did you get involved in the freight space, which I think is always an interesting story? Sure.

Dan Cicerchi: 0:59

Yeah, so probably like lots of people, I didn't start out in the freight business. My partner, Bennett Adelson, and I started a tech consulting company and so we were doing technology consulting, working for companies, building custom solutions, and then around 08, 07, 08, we wanted to diversify and create a recurring revenue platform. I don't know that SAS was even a term back then and we piloted a few things, but you know, macro point ended up being one of the pilots that we had and you know we work closely with a couple key customers and really the rest is history. It took off like a rocket ship and we went with it.

Blythe Brumleve: 1:51

Oh, that's interesting. So you had a few companies maybe in your portfolio of services and this was the one that worked, and so what was? I guess, sort of that, I guess that catalyst of starting the company was the early signals of it being successful. But then how did you sort of move it to continuously sort of evolve over the years? Because you know, I think for a lot of businesses, especially in the freight tech landscape today, it's, you know, there's the, the moniker of like, oh, are you VC backed or are you going to be a startup and you know who's going to really be successful? So I'm curious as to how you, you you obviously you chose the business, but how you decided to grow it.

Dan Cicerchi: 2:32

Yeah, I mean, we bootstrapped Bennett and I funded it ourselves. Our initial inclination, though, for macro point was actually to be build an ELD device on a consumer grade phone. So we were going to be kind of omni tracks on a phone and we had probably four or 500 units out in the market. But we kept hearing customers say you know, that's not really a problem for us, we have, you know, qualcomm or omni tracks, and but if you could help do that to our, the freight we put on other people's trucks, that's what we're interested in. So ultimately we pivoted and as any good, I think, business entrepreneur, you really got to listen to your customers, understand where their real problems problems are and lean in and and then that's what we did. We took every dollar we brought in and pushed it right back into the business and and really had our. Our payment models or billing models were supporting the cash flow of the business. So we encourage customers to pre buy, quote, unquote, deposit money in the account. That really helped fund our ongoing growth. So we didn't have to take on VC money.

Blythe Brumleve: 3:55

Wow. So so it sounds like you. You did what every good marketer does, and that is listen to your customers and then create those additional solutions on an ongoing basis. It sounds like that the customer, first priority, what has always been a priority for macro point.

Dan Cicerchi: 4:10

Totally. I mean, we have no ego in telling customers what they need. I think listening to what they need and coming up with innovative, innovative ways to solve that is really the secret sauce, that that we hit in, and there's lots of freight tech businesses in the space that have done that, have done the same thing, and it really again aligning on what is the real problem and then innovate around. How do you solve that?

Blythe Brumleve: 4:38

And so what was the point that you decided? Or maybe it was you know, the cards coming to you that you said well, I think it's time to make the next jump, to make the next move. You know, instead of being bootstrapped, you know, partner up with a bigger company that can allow us to grow even more. What, what did that process sort of look like for you?

Dan Cicerchi: 4:58

Yeah, I mean we certainly had lots of opportunities to work with other private equity firms and we did take on, a year and a day before the Descartes sale, a private equity partner in Susquehanna and they were great because we saw the opportunity and we needed to to lean in and spend to really capture that. And then Ben and I decided that you know, the opportunity is bigger than kind of the fork in the road of do we continue to dump more into the business? I mean we're Midwest, we have to be profitable. We never tried to lose lots of money quickly. And then you know the Descartes folks, it was just a natural kind of transition. We saw the global network of sellers and customers. I mean Descartes has 24,000 customers globally and we're excited to get to those customers fast and that gave us the opportunity to do that.

Blythe Brumleve: 6:06

I'm curious as to how you know sort of you know tracking technology within the US. I think is kind of a given. But is this maybe like an ignorant question. But you know overseas or maybe in other countries are how are they receptive to this kind of technology? Is it a little bit more of a sell or is it maybe an easier sell than it is to maybe like the US market?

Dan Cicerchi: 6:29

Yeah, I mean there's certainly the EU has laws that make it sometimes a little bit more difficult, although we see California and other states really mirroring, I think, with the EU on that. I think they're just as receptive. I mean early days of MacroPoint. After dinner I would call drivers every night to get them to install the MacroPoint app. And I learned what their frustrations were. You know we certainly heard good, bad and everything in between about MacroPoint in the early days, but at the end of the day, drivers are, I think, similar regardless of the geography, in that they don't want to be bothered, they're open to sharing updates with their customers and they don't want to receive phone calls at two in the morning from God knows who asking him where they are and when they're going to be there. So once we broke through the communication of to the carrier and to the driver, here are the problems we're trying to solve for you. It expedited the deployment, for sure.

Blythe Brumleve: 7:41

Do you think a lot of those same concerns from the early days of MacroPoint still exist today, or is it just a similar challenge that you're trying to explain, that this is ultimately for the betterment of everybody, that you can have this kind of technology at your fingertips?

Dan Cicerchi: 7:59

It's come a long way. We don't have the challenges that we did in the early days and I think because drivers know in terms of how we built our app and our tech, we give them the ability to protect their privacy. We care about that as much or more than any other data element in our system. We've built a nice brand name and trust with the long tail of small carers and drivers throughout North America and they've grown from there. So that's been good. No more after dinner phone calls.

Blythe Brumleve: 8:34

Yeah, I imagine that the customer research you have a little bit more help in the customer research department.

Dan Cicerchi: 8:41


Blythe Brumleve: 8:43

But when you join Decarts and you have access to this extended team. Now I was surprised to learn, because I was listening to your interview with Duna on what the truck and that you and because typically after a company is acquired, the staff doesn't stay around definitely not the leadership, but that's the reverse for you guys. What was sort of that transition like that you said to yourself I'm going to stick around, I'm not going to just take the check and run.

Dan Cicerchi: 9:09

Yeah, I'm certainly in full transparency. Didn't expect to be around, but I love what I do. I love the people I work with. I think we care about each other and we still feel like it's a mission and a problem we're solving and a huge still opportunity for innovation in front of us. And you put all those things together and I think good people want to stay on the bandwagon and then we've gotten great people post acquisition to join. That's helped keep the business accelerating and growth and capability.

Blythe Brumleve: 9:52

And now with macro point, how has, I guess, the technology evolved over the years? I because I remember working at an asset based freight brokerage, you know, 12 years ago, and we were talking about this new technology that we had in macro point. So I'm curious as to how it's evolved over the years since then.

Dan Cicerchi: 10:11

Yeah, I mean I think when when we started, we were really starting with triangulation of a cell phone, so working with the cell carriers to really give us the data once the driver is opted in. We've since evolved away from that and we have now a mobile app deployment where you know there's over a million drivers that that use that app. We have a an enormous ELD connective infrastructure so every major ELD solution in North America and and the EU were connected to, and so that gives our carriers the opportunity to, within a minute, do a self activation and onboarding to the macro point network, which that's really new in our business. And then you know we connect to the, the super regional and major carriers through API's.

Blythe Brumleve: 11:15

Are you in freight sales with a book of business, looking for a new home, or perhaps you're afraid agent in need of a better partnership? These are the kinds of conversations we're exploring in our podcast interview series called the freight agent trenches, sponsored by SPI logistics. Now I can tell you all day that SPI is one of the most successful logistics firms in North America, who helps their agents with back office operations such as admin, finance, it and sales. But I would much rather you hear it directly from SPI's freight agents themselves. And what better way to do that than by listening to the experienced freight agents tell their stories behind the how and the why they joined SPI? Hit the freight agent link in our show notes to listen to these conversations or, if you're ready to make the jump, visit SPI 3PL dot com. And so you know, as we transitioning a little bit to some of the other offerings that that Ducart's offers and that you mentioned in our show notes the advanced ocean tracking and I was watching freight waves the other day and so they had mentioned, you know, this trickle down effect of ocean shipping and how it affects really the rest of you know sort of the freight market, especially in the United States. We're entering peak season, so I'm curious as to what's access, having access to these other tools, what perspective do you have on what's going to go on during this current peak season, which is maybe the first quote, unquote, normal one we've had since 2019.

Dan Cicerchi: 12:43

Yeah, I mean, and we just released some research on cargo volumes, I think last month match 2019. So we're kind of, if we take out the crazy peaks in in COVID, we're now back to about where we were in 2019. So so we're seeing certainly our customers are seeing pricing kind of normalizing for container shipping. I think the awareness though for congestion, the impacts that that has on our customers, downstream businesses, are higher than ever, and so we give our customers the ability to and those customers are freight forwarders, their shippers and their freight brokers. At the end of the day, they want to know. The one question is when should I send a truck to pick up the container? That's the question they need to answer, and so what we give them is the ability to visualize. We predict, you know. We take terminal data, ocean shipper data, ais data, put it all together. We're integrated with the US customs service so we can kind of pull together and tell you in real time when that container has been custom released, when it's arrived at port, when it's last free day. So there's lots of information that we try to pull together, overlay some dynamic predictions and then communicate that out to our customers to know, essentially, when to go pick up that container.

Blythe Brumleve: 14:30

That's a perfect segue into sort of the tech side of this conversation that I wanted to have with you, because you mentioned on one of those previous interviews that there are those who have the data and then there are those who know how to use it. What are some examples of usable data in freight that you think that folks should be paying attention to?

Dan Cicerchi: 14:48

Yeah, I mean, and that is and I think that's probably the biggest thing that's changed in the last 10, 12 years is the amount of data in the industry. Tons of it, I mean there's. We have data on everything. I think it's too much. Well, it is for sure. I think the innovations now are really around harnessing kind of what One. How do we make the data better? We do a lot of machine learning around improving truck IDs. So what truck should we track? And the customer might get a bad truck number from the carrier. We do a lot of machine learning around solving for that and saying, no, this is the good truck that should be assigned for that load. Or if we think, going back to ocean, here's the last free day and can we then start to apply alerts to customers on the last free day? When has it been, like I said, custom released? We do a lot around predicting arrivals, but the raw materials, as I've said before, the real-time location updates and event updates really are the underpinnings for all the awesome insights that you can glean related to detention, to marriage, performance of carriers, performance for your customers, performance on each constantly. I mean there's tons of insights you glean once you have those raw materials. We feel like we've carved out a differentiated capability to really get at that raw material data.

Blythe Brumleve: 16:31

Super interesting because there was another quote that I heard you say the golden rule of carrier management. Can you explain what that is and why it's so important?

Dan Cicerchi: 16:44

Yeah, I mean and this is something we do in my family too is it's not about treating others how you want to be treated, but you treat others how they want to be treated. And when we think about our carriers, they're different. We have a great, awesome owner-operator base that leveraged MacroPoint to find available loads to share location updates. Well, they have a different set of needs and expectations. And then you get into the mom-and-pop and mid-sized trucking companies and then you get to the JB, hunts and Scheiders. That spectrum of expectations are different and we need to understand that, realize that and treat people differently based on how they want and need to be treated.

Blythe Brumleve: 17:37

What are some of those differences between some of the owner-operators versus the larger carriers? I would imagine maybe budgetary concerns, things like that.

Dan Cicerchi: 17:46

Yeah, I mean, I think, capabilities to share their information. So we have take Schneider. They do a fantastic job and have technical capabilities to give good real-time, api-based data, and so you have these high-tech, market-leading companies like Schneider. And then we have a lot of small companies that they really need lots of help. They need easy ways to share their trucks' data with their customers, but they don't have a tech staff, they don't have a lot of time to manage integrations and things like that. So we rolled out a carrier self-activation platform where they can log in and, within a minute or two, onboard their carrier, their trucks, into our network and share location data just for the shipments that they're on for customers.

Blythe Brumleve: 18:45

Oh, that's super interesting. Now there's so much news, especially like, obviously, the convoy closure announced today is probably the biggest story or one of the biggest stories in Frade all year long, and it's bringing up this sort of heated debate around the value of digital brokerages and where they could have possibly failed and where others succeed, and I think ultimately it makes some people scared of adopting technology where I think logistics just at its heart is always going to be a relationship driven business. So how do you balance sort of tech adoption and or how do you think about sort of tech adoption and the relationship aspect, because it feels like that you're very focused, or have always been very focused, on the relationship side of things.

Dan Cicerchi: 19:34

Yeah, for sure. And the convoy, I mean I'm sorry to see you know I think the I'm sure mistakes were made. I don't know enough about their business, but you know technology wasn't the problem, right, but we think about you know, we think about you know, we think about you know we think risk, right, and every company needs to apply their understanding of risks and the opportunity against those risks and there's always winners and losers, but I applaud them for taking the risks and it'll create more opportunity in the long run for people. That there's great people that work in that business today, that will be great people tomorrow that are available to work in lots of other businesses, very true. So that's good. But it is relationship, you know technology will never replace that. I think we look for the high friction areas in our customers' businesses that are low value and we automate those, and then the outcome is better relationships, right? So our carrier sales reps, our account managers, spend more time talking to carriers about lanes that they would actually care about because they have better data in front of them, right? But it's not about automating out those interactions. I think we're a long way away from that.

Blythe Brumleve: 20:55

Yeah, and I think with a lot of these technology solutions, they're allowing you to get some time back so that your best employees can spend that time. That extra time that they have now building those relationships is that. I would imagine that that's a safe assumption for the macro point team, for you guys 100%, 100% Free.

Dan Cicerchi: 21:14

People love to do more value added activities and I don't think AI or any other fancy terms you want to throw in can automate good relationships. That when there's a problem, everybody makes mistakes. Feeling that there's a person on the other end that cares about your business, that you can call, I think that will be important 10, 20, 100 years from now.

Blythe Brumleve: 21:38

Are there any areas in freight that you think technology can still solve?

Dan Cicerchi: 21:48

Totally. There's still a lot of paperwork that moves manually, I think, and there's guys like Highway that are doing a great job of really trying to find the bad actors more quickly to save some of our customers. I think EDI if you had told me 15 years ago that EDI would be as prevalent as it is today. It's still growing. I run an EDI platform inside of Descartes. We manage 6 billion messages a year, I think, and growing. There's lots of opportunity for innovation. For sure. We think about our capacity platform, really thinking about who's the right carrier and giving carriers more data on what the right lane is for them, both economically and logistically. How do we take carbon out of the industry, reducing dead head? Those are the exciting things that me and my team are still thinking about and seeing ways to innovate on.

Blythe Brumleve: 23:10

We're obviously in a very tight market. We just mentioned Convoy is one of them. There's a lot of companies that, unfortunately, are going to have to close for this market to reset and rebalance itself. You ran a startup for years and you're in a very successful business for years. What advice would you give to other companies that are facing that dilemma of how do we balance innovation and also just focusing on our core fundamentals?

Dan Cicerchi: 23:42

I think profit is the oxygen for business. If you lose sight of that and especially in a rising rate environment the cost of capital goes up. You could find yourself in a really bad spot. Focusing in on am I solving important problems for my customers and am I doing that in a profitable way so I can reinvest in getting the next customer hiring the next great employee that's going to help us grow. Those are really what I think separates the successful entrepreneurs. You don't always make the right decisions, but having dry powder in a profitable business where you're solving real problems is never going to go out of style.

Blythe Brumleve: 24:34

Absolutely. What's next on the product roadmap for you guys over at MacroPoint to Cards? All that good stuff.

Dan Cicerchi: 24:40

We have our innovation forum for our customers coming up November 1st and 2nd where we have our product managers, our customer success teams and some of our thought leaders are going to be talking about really just that. I think the quick flyover in terms of what we're seeing. If I want to pick MacroPoint, a lot of again, more automation and enablement for carriers, a lot of things that we're doing in the European markets and South American markets. We're seeing tons of growth in Mexico as we're seeing some reshoring or nearshoring happening. Innovations around, more predictions. We just rolled out our new UI for MacroPoint. So we kind of you know, two years in the making, we've been looking at and working on kind of the new experience for our customers. So lots of our big customers never use our system, they just connect via API. But our mid and small customers, they live in our platform and we're excited about some of the innovations and the notification automation and there are really lots of cool things that our customers are excited about and, quite frankly, have been asking for.

Blythe Brumleve: 26:03

Is there anything that I didn't ask that you think is important to mention?

Dan Cicerchi: 26:11

I mean I don't think so. I mean I think, look, I'm excited, proud to be a part of an awesome kind of stumbled into the freight industry, but I think we all did yeah, exactly. But, you know, proud to be a part of the industry, working alongside some real luminaries. And I appreciate the logistics leaders. You know, the Shelly Simpsons of the world that really are out front leading Good times are bad, I think, are good leaders in our industry Erin Van Zeeland over at Schneider, all these people that I think you know we appreciate in terms of, if I look back, kind of the journeys that we've been on and we've been successful because of great people like that. I mentioned Ed Waddle. I mean Ed was he's at our best. He was really kind of one of our first customers that helped us really identify a really important problem to solve that became what MacroPoint is today. So just humbled and proud to be a part of that and I know I speak for the broader team that you know we've been at this for 13, 14 years and we're still as excited as ever about the innovations in front of us.

Blythe Brumleve: 27:32

Absolutely. I mean, I know there's a lot of tough times going on for people right now in the market, but there's a lot of innovation. That happens when everything is sort of burned to the ground. You know things got to rise from those ashes and you know only you know a lot of the stronger and newer visions are going to come to light after that happens. So, dan, appreciate your time today. Where can folks follow you? Follow more of your work.

Dan Cicerchi: 27:55

So I mean connect with me on LinkedIn. That's the social tool of choice that I use. Macropointcom, daycartcom. Love to hear feedback, thoughts, ideas for our next innovation.

Blythe Brumleve: 28:12

Absolutely. Thank you again for your time and I'll make sure to put all of that in the show notes, just to make it easy for folks to check out.

Dan Cicerchi: 28:18

That'd be great. Thanks, Mike.

Blythe Brumleve: 28:24

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Everything Is Logistics, a podcast for the thinkers in freight, telling the stories behind how your favorite stuff and people get from point A to B. Subscribe to the show, sign up for our newsletter and follow our socials over at everythingislogisticscom. And in addition to the podcast, I also wanted to let y'all know about another company I operate, and that's Digital Dispatch, where we help you build a better website. Now, a lot of the times, we hand this task of building a new website or refreshing a current one off to a co-worker's child, a neighbor down the street or a stranger around the world, where you probably spend more time explaining the freight industry than it takes to actually build the dang website. Well, that doesn't happen at Digital Dispatch. We've been building online since 2009, but we're also early adopters of AI, automation and other website tactics that help your company to be a central place to pull in all of your social media posts, recruit new employees and get potential customers a glimpse into how you operate your business. Our new website builds start as low as $1,500, along with ongoing website management, maintenance and updates starting at $90 a month, plus some bonus, freight marketing and sales content similar to what you hear on the podcast. You can watch a quick explainer video over on DigitalDispatchio. Just check out the pricing page once you arrive and you can see how we can build your digital ecosystem on a strong foundation. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this episode. I'll see you all real soon and go Jags.

About the Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Creative entrepreneur in freight. Founder of Digital Dispatch and host of Everything is Logistics. Co-Founder at Jax Podcasters Unite. Board member of Transportation Marketing and Sales Association. Freightwaves on-air personality. Annoying Jaguars fan. test

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.