Janne Juhala is the CEO and one of three co-founders of Logmore, a Finnish startup that offers supply chain monitoring and analytics solutions.
Over the course of 2020, the global logistics services industry sustained about as much disruption as any other. The pandemic halted shipping routes, revealing how much more volatile supply chains are than many previously realized. And now, with leading pharmaceutical concerns and public health authorities world over starting to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, maintaining extra cold freight conditions is suddenly a matter of life and death.
It’s been quite a year for Logmore as well, announcing a €4.5M Series A finding round in June, rolling out a dry ice data logger that can measure vaccine-hospitable deep freeze conditions, and seeing significant business growth throughout.
Juhala looks back on lessons learned since founding Logmore in 2017, the changes that the B2B space has seen in 2020 and the use of quality assurance transparency as a strategic business differentiator.
What did you see in the supply chain analytics space that made you think it was so ripe for disruption?
I think a lot of it comes down to the overall perspective that my co-founders and I had. We had a good amount of familiarity with the industry before we founded Logmore, but we were still “outsiders” to enough of an extent that we were able to see the glaring needs to change the way certain things are done. When you’re an established business, spending all your time “in the trenches,” it can be hard to see those opportunities.
While there are many companies that sell data loggers that collect information about shipping conditions, we saw a big opportunity in coupling the hardware aspect with a dedicated software platform and offering it all as a subscription package. Businesses that use loggers are collecting data for a reason, so making it easier for them to learn from, and act quickly on, that data, is an important piece of the puzzle.
We were also able to look at the way loggers sync with the cloud and come up with the idea to use dynamic QR codes instead. Why should supply chain measurement require these legacy systems that sync with databases using unwieldy and easily hacked USB devices, or using RFID transmitters that involve unreliable radio signals and expensive proprietary tech? It takes a certain fresh perspective to even be able to ask those questions.
So there was no single change in the supply chain space that triggered the opportunity, but rather we could have the answer to existing challenges due to technological developments.
What would you say has been the hardest part about building a viable sales pipeline for your company, as a first-time entrepreneur?
When I first started, the hardest part was getting it all done on my own, with limited time, as I was doing so much other than sales to build the company.
As our sales team’s time management challenges have matured, we’ve also gotten better at identifying qualified leads earlier on. It’s important to only focus resources on prospects who have high potential to actually be a good fit.
From what you’re seeing, how has the global B2B ecosystem changed most since the pandemic hit?
The clearest change is probably the lack of human contact in everything. The meetings held are much more compact and optimized: you have one conference call, and often jump straight to the next one after you’re done.
Lack of meetings is the biggest thing, meetings have been replaced by more constant communication through different channels – shorter calls, WhatsApp, video meetings. In 2019, we might have had an in-person meeting to close on a product test framework with a sales prospect, whereas today, I’m seeing bigger decisions being made online, on a self-service ecommerce or low-touch basis.
This trend of making decisions without face-to-face meetings has its ups and downs, of course. Some international cases are able to move forward faster, as you can skip the traditional “wine and dine” process. The downside is that the relationship between you and your customer builds up much more slowly.
This might not slow down closing the deals, but it definitely affects scaling up the partnership. For Logmore, in general, this trend has been positive, as we have customers based all over the world.
For B2B service providers, why is quality assurance always such a hurdle?
I wouldn’t say it’s always a hurdle. In the logistics business specifically, standards tend to be quite abstract, telling you to do things well without necessarily specifying what that means in practice.
At the end of the spectrum, you have extremely specific instructions that only apply to highly specific cases.
Compared to the world of software, where you have tons of common practices, there are next to no guidelines that can directly be copied from one use case or industry to another when it comes to quality assurance. That isn’t necessarily a problem, of course, since having industry specific standards is more likely to keep the guidelines and requirements relevant.
What role does transparency play in B2B market differentiation?
The food and pharma industries are extremely competitive and diverse. The challenge there is that everything needs to be more and more efficient all the time. You have to be able to beat or even match your competitors. With limited resources, you’ll likely leave certain things to minimal attention. Allowing your quality control efforts to slip is often the first thing to go
I think that a lot of B2B buyers have grown sick of the “black box” approach. Providing the companies that you do business with access to data that demonstrates you’re delivering the level of service you’ve been contracted to deliver just makes sense.
This is definitely true among logistics providers and the companies that rely on them – especially in food and pharmaceuticals, where reliably fast and cold delivery are so critical to the buyers – but it’s probably true in more sectors than we realize.
The change might have come as an outcome of the rise of customer-centricity in B2C. Why should someone, whether they’re a business buyer or an end consumer, trust a company that doesn’t offer transparency?
Sustainability and values are also on the rise, and to realize them, you need to be transparent. B2B companies are used to showing their prices, explaining product specifications, and demonstrating the quality. Meanwhile, values are something the B2C market is much more comfortable with. That is definitely something for B2B businesses to learn.
To what extent has the rise of ecommerce changed the way companies of different sizes tackle supply chain monitoring?
Ecommerce comes in so many varieties, from the “fulfilled by” partnership model with marketplaces to the current surge in direct-to-consumer brands, that the way manufacturing and warehousing happens is in a constant state of flux. The entire supply chain now needs to be more agile, and needs to be able to accommodate the requirements of brands of all sizes, with shipments of all sizes too.
If you’re a logistics provider today, then you need to keep the huge regional warehouses of big-brand marketplace platforms well-stocked with a huge variety of products, and you need to work with small manufacture batches coming from the East to small warehouses in the West. It’s a lot to keep track of.
With shipping routes growing in complexity, profit margins are harder to come by, so even small boosts in efficiency can make for big differences to these companies – data is key to that picture. All the while, regulations have matured, too, requiring monitoring for governance and certification purposes.
The growth of ecommerce has also boosted the amount of small parcels shipped worldwide. As the volume of shipments increases, so does the volume of loggers needed to collect data. Therefore there’s more room for different solutions based on specific needs.