As is tradition at a Business is an Adventure event, we ended proceedings in Seattle with 'three minutes to landing', a segment that allows local businesses to join our esteemed panel on stage and discuss a problem or hurdle they’re currently facing.
One of those to join Richard Branson and the panel this time around was Ziad Ismail of Convoy, a business which is building the world's largest network of trucks, with guaranteed capacity and real-time GPS tracking on all shipments. Ziad wanted some tips on how to balance expanding quickly to meet the needs of customers whilst still staying focused on doing the small things really well. You can watch Ziad and the panel discuss the dilemma below.
After his time on stage we caught up with Ziad, to get his view on the business and the advice he was able to draw from the panel.
So Ziad, tell us a little more Convoy and the mission behind it
Convoy is reinventing trucking. Shippers spend hours making phone calls and emailing to find a truck. On the other side, nearly 40 per cent of all miles driven are empty miles leading to waste. Convoy is focused on using technology to build the world's most efficient and reliable network of independent trucking companies. We are backed by investors and founders from Amazon, Expedia, Salesforce, Starbucks, Instagram, Greylock Partners, and others.
What’s the best thing about doing business in Seattle?
Seattle is an anomaly. It is a small city and ranks roughly 100th in population globally. Yet it has two of the world's five largest companies with Microsoft and Amazon based here. That means you get the friendliness and intimacy of a smaller city with unparalleled concentration of ideas and talent. There is just no city like it.
Are there any challenges to doing business in Seattle?
Historically, people left Seattle for the Bay Area to start their own company or join the next hypergrowth company. In the past few years, that has changed. Seattle now has an incredible set of startups that are tackling large and ambitious problems. We are betting that Convoy and other start-ups will contribute to the next wave in Seattle tech.
What one thing did you learn from the panel during their discussion?
Virgin has been able to breakthrough with its brand by having fun with incumbents (like British Airways). It did inspire me to think harder about how we can breakthrough with our story and brand. Trucking is a traditional industry that is hungry for innovation and that approach could resonate here.
Did the panel say anything which you disagreed with or would have liked to challenge?
A lot of the discussion centered around the importance of grounding a company in values and continuously anchoring the major decisions in the value. After the panel discussion, someone came up to me and told me the best advice he received which was that some people just aren’t going to fit with the value of the company. Dealing with people that don’t fit the values is as important as dealing with people that aren’t performing.
What does the future hold for your business?
We started Convoy in Seattle serving the West coast. We initially thought that we would spend the first few years serving the small and medium business market and it would take longer to get Fortune 500 to adopt us. But global leaders like Unilever and others have already adopted Convoy because they are hungry for innovation and saw the benefits of what we could do. As a result, we are expanding rapidly geographically to meet our customers’ needs. We have been fortunate to attract great talent from Amazon, Google, Uber, Microsoft and many others join us.