The pandemic and the ongoing supply chain crunch put fleet management top of mind for consumers and investors alike. When it comes to getting things from point A to point B, it’s critical that companies have their trucks moving efficiently, on time, and within budget.
Well before 2020, Tony Summerville was thinking about the inefficiencies surrounding fleet management. He spent his summers working for his dad’s electric supply and distribution company, where he learned the stressors local businesses faced when trying to organize company vehicles.
“I learned that many businesses had difficulties with tracking vehicle maintenance and service history, inspecting vehicles, understanding fuel spend, total cost of ownership, etc.,” he told Hypepotamus. “ I noticed that there wasn’t really a modern affordable software solution for smaller companies that manage a fleet using cloud-based software and mobile devices.”
He took on the challenge and grew it into a startup with international reach and a brand that has become a cornerstone in the Birmingham, Alabama business community.
Fleetio is a SaaS alternative that helps automate a company’s fleet maintenance work. Customers include delivery businesses, construction and landscaping firms, as well as freight companies with multiple vehicles to track.
From Bootstrapping to Series B
Summerville and the Fleetio team have navigated an ever-changing road within fleet management and the wider automotive space.
“There isn’t ever a “right time” to launch,” Summerville told Hypepotamus. But following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, he decided to jump into entrepreneurship in 2011.
“After some conversations with my wife, we agreed that I would try to get something off the ground for a year and then go back to my old life, if it didn’t work out,” he added.
The team bootstrapped during its early stages and took on a bit of angel investor funding to get through the first four years. By 2017, the team was in true growth mode. Revenue skyrocketed 392.8% between 2017 and 2020.
Investors followed that growth. Fleetio closed its $3.5 million Series A and its $21 million Series B in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
A good bit of that growth has come from overseas, as Fleetio now has customers in over 80 countries. But the team is still heavily rooted in downtown Birmingham. The startup recently renovated a 15,000 square foot office in the city to house its growing team of 200 plus employees.
“We’re proud to be headquartered in Birmingham and to be part of the technology scene here. Birmingham is currently undergoing a renaissance and I’m seeing more opportunities for the city to grow and become a technology hub,” Summerville added. “They call it the “Magic City” for a reason.”
The future of fleet
Fleet management is big business today for startups and seasoned companies alike. But it has particularly captured the attention of VCs and other institutional investors after the rise of pandemic-era supply chain issues. There is surely a lot of innovation needed to help fleet managers contend with the “snowball effect” of labor shortages, supply chain issues, the increased demand for online deliveries, and skyrocketing materials cost.
Since the start of 2020, well over 160 fleet management-focused startups around the globe have raised institutional rounds, according to available Crunchbase data.
“When I first started my entrepreneurial journey, I didn’t realize just how much things would change in such a short time,” Summerville told Hypepotamus. “With connected cars and autonomous vehicles, there are a lot of people out there thinking about the future of mobility and transportation, and how technology can push things forward. We’re living in a really incredible time regarding fleet management.”