How many times a day whilst we are travelling on the highways, railways and flightpaths of countries across the African continent do we see underutilized freight carriers. This results in more expense and a bigger environmental impact. But that is about to change with the entry into the marketplace of EmptyTrips. This innovative, digital company is a game-changer in the logistics and freight transportation business.
LoA met with the founder and ceo of Empty Trips, Benji Coetzee, this month to find out more.
What does your company do?
EmptyTrips is an online exchange that uses algorithmic directional capacity matching paired with competitive digital auction rooms connecting transporters, brokers and cargo owners. The platform aims to reduce inefficiency of empty vehicles (trucks, trains, planes and vessels) thereby offering increases in asset yield (utilization), lower transport costs and reduced carbon emissions. The platform offers financial add-on products such as digital cargo insurance, and is currently developing a carbon credit calculator.
"The platform aims to reduce inefficiency of empty vehicles (trucks, trains, planes and vessels) thereby offering increases in asset yield (utilization), lower transport costs and reduced carbon emissions."
What inspired you to start your company?
There were a number of factors that played a role in unfolding the idea and concept. In summary, I decided to start the business after noticing the number of empty trucks and railway wagons running on the Johannesburg-Durban route, causing significant (unneeded) carbon emissions, congestion and costs. This three-fold inefficiency simply bugged me. Furthermore, consulting clients consistently complain that expensive transport costs eat into their margins and applying economic theory (excess supply leads to lower prices, not higher prices) did not add up. Furthermore, having worked on large infrastructure projects needing investment, the limited quality data available on traffic volumes needed to validate an investments bankability was a constant constraint and professional frustration. This encouraged me to start working on a prototype of a smart connected platform to assist trade, integration and the environment via smarter transport with better utilization, lower costs and traffic volume transparency.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
Our platform has the potential to open borders and enable trade for the continent by leveraging data. Transport costs should not be underestimated as the hindrance to our growth and our ability to prosper. It is either the backbone or the bottleneck of economies. We help governments better connect stakeholders, reducing inefficiencies that increase costs.
"Our platform has the potential to open borders and enable trade for the continent by leveraging data."
Tell us a little about your team
We have a strong team dominated by woman. Salome Kgoale manages our brand and content, she has 9+ years of experience in marketing and design. Justine Letard manages our client relations and sales, with a fantastic panache for ensuring strong partnerships with clients. Herman Strauss is the Einstein behind the coding of our technology and the remainder of the team focus on execution and relations.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I have nearly a decade’s experience in top tier consulting (The Boston Consulting Group and Bryanston Resources), banking (HSBC) & insurance (Hollard), paired with two masters degrees in commerce and finance (MPhil from Stellenbosch University and a LLM from Goethe University in Germany). I have done some long yards and late nights that have afforded me a few steadfast skills and a strong foundation for success. During my corporate career, pre-entrepreneurship, I was exposed to corporate finance, due diligences, value enhancement, turnarounds (incl.100-day plans) and business model innovation. Thankfully, because of these experiences I could (and still do) consult part-time, which bootstraps us to take the risk of "technopreneurship". It has by no means been easy, but a great ride with many learnings, emotional breakdowns and fantastic networks being built. I believe I became an entrepreneur due to my insecure overachiever personality; giving me a passion and motivation to do more with the skills I have. I often also think I am a bit crazy to be chasing the ambition of a supernova status, but without a vision you do not know where you are going!
"We will be the supernova orchestrator across road, rail, air and sea transport for Africa and beyond."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We will be the supernova orchestrator across road, rail, air and sea transport for Africa and beyond. We will commoditize freight, and dis-intermediate dominant players that fragment our progress.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Seeing our product evolve and clients flatter our staff with compliments for doing cool things!
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Don't be scared to ask. You will be surprised how willing people are to help, when you humble yourself.
Contact or follow EmptyTrips
Why LoA loves it….
Thinking big is an ability and an attitude that separates so many successful businesses from those that remain aspirant. In the case of Benji Coetzee’s Empty Trips, she took a big thinking and big vision approach from the outset, positioning both her and the business in the innovator space. This is an exciting company and brand on the move, literally, and one that is destined to go the distance. One to watch! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa