After two decades of dealing with the logistics of truckers, freight companies and their payment system, Akmann Van-Mary became frustrated. Over the years, the Haitian-born problem solver has woken up in the middle of the night with truckers needing a fuel advance or lumper payments. You must answer these calls in order to keep the process running smoothly. After selling his trucking company and talking to leading shipping companies and drivers alike, Van-Mary set to transport the trucking industry into the digital era through MyLumper.
“Time is the most valuable commodity for the drivers. If you’re burning time, it’s not good for them. They are not making money, if they are not driving. They hated that process,” Van-Mary says.
With MyLumper, Van-Mary developed a digital payment platform, featuring an app, that eliminates the need for around the clock calls. It also enables drivers to take more jobs, reduce their wait time and eliminate fraud. All the trucker has to do is click one button and the transaction is done.
Now, with the help of his co-founder Ryan Droege and principal software engineer Patrick Childers, Van-Mary has now completed Georgia Tech’s Flashpoint program. Here, Van-Mary talks about strategy, being selective about venture capital sources and finally revamping the trucking payment industry.How does the current trucking payment system work?
A guy at the company had to stay up late at night. If I have a driver making a delivery in California, I had to be available when he gets there. When he gets there, he needs to pay out of pocket. Then the next day he needs to send me a receipt and get reimbursed. Some companies reimburse you a month later so that puts a drain in the driver’s pocket. Therefore, if a driver needs to pick up two loads, he looks at the one he has to pay out of pocket and the one he does not, he’ll always go for the latter.
As a shipper that puts me in a disadvantage because my truckers have to pay out of pocket. Then I discovered the check system — it works almost like a Western Union. I would call the company, get an 18-digit code for my driver and give it to him when they called me. Once I give him that code, they have to find a correspondent check, write that code and pay the company that’s unloading their truck. That company then has to call that same company I called to verify the code. Once they verify the code, they obtain an 8-digit code and they have it to write on the check. Then the trucker delivers the check.How did your idea evolve into MyLumper?
I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, I had ideas but the technology wasn’t there. I would have to issue special equipment to all of those companies at that point.
In 2012, I started to do full research — calling companies, asking what they are doing now, and what they would like to do. Even the company receiving the money hates the system from my conversation with them. It takes a minimum of 15 minutes per transaction so you can only charge four drivers per hour. In 2013, I started to write about the problem to see if it was alone. I discovered that it wasn’t just my problem, it was an industry problem.
I decided that I was going to sell my company and if I have to do this, I cannot do it halfway. I have to do it 100 percent, I have to be committed. I didn’t have a clear vision. It would’ve been solved already if it was that easy. You could use credit cards, you could use Paypal — both none of those worked because they create issues for both parties. I wanted to create a frictionless solution and there’s a gain. From that point, it was just a matter of putting a team together. A team that could understand that you’re solving something that no one ever heard of.
At that point, you decide to move from Florida to Atlanta for Georgia Tech’s Flashpoint?
When I got accepted into Flashpoint, I was visiting Haiti for the first time in 20 years.
I was planning on raising capital and building the company out of New York. Flashpoint called once again and I told them that at this stage I don’t need to go through this program because I have a product, clients want to use it, I have everything. They said, “Unless you have clients knocking down your door, breaking it down — you need to be here.” I convinced my team and we did it.
The program is not about build it, they’ll come. It’s about finding out what they need and build it. It’s not about accelerating your program — my initial understanding of the program. It’s about building the founder and making you a better entrepreneur. You may not even do the product you thought you were going to build because now you’re a better business person. We could’ve spent millions of dollars trying to find out what we found out while at Flashpoint. There’s a difference between guessing where you’re going and going somewhere with a map. Flashpoint gives you a map — as a person who graduates from the program, you have a better chance of being successful.
How are you funding it?
We weren’t actively looking for funding. We had lunch with Techstars’ Tyler Scriven and saw that this was a great opportunity for a great market. He invested right away. We realized, “I guess we’re raising capital!” We had a meeting with Steve Chamberlain and he wrote us a check.
We didn’t want to just raise capital. The knowledge that you get from the person writing the checks is, in some ways, more important than the check itself. I wanted them to be strategic — whether you can make an introduction or you can tell us when we’re doing something wrong — because we don’t know everything.
We want to take our first product here and take off. Then we can revisit whether the Valley is the right place for us to be. At this stage, we’re comfortable in Atlanta and we have the support.
What’s on deck for 2016?
Right now, we have four of us, but we have a group of six full-time guys that we outsourced to help us scale faster. We want to make sure we have something that can scale and it’s steady. It should be ready in a couple of months.
Are you hiring?
Yes, we are looking for a Senior Software Engineer to join our team.