The FreightCaviar Podcast: Plotting the Future of Freight Tech with Echo Logistics Vet

Join us as Andy Tomka, Vice President of Product at MVMNT, discusses how his journey in freight, inspired by his Iowa roots, led him to Echo Logistics. Discover his insights on technology, AI, and industry disruption.

The FreightCaviar Podcast: Plotting the Future of Freight Tech with Echo Logistics Vet

In this week's episode, we sat down with Andy Tomka, VP of Product at MVMNT, a Chicago-based freight tech startup founded in 2020. Andy talks about his time working at Menlo Worldwide (acquired in 2015 by XPO Logistics) as a Transportation Specialist, his various roles at Echo Global Logistics, and now MVMNT. He takes us through the evolution of Echo and its TMS and shares his thoughts on the importance of differentiation, as well as the future and impact of AI on the industry and jobs.

Early Inspiration and Education

Andy Tomka’s entry into the freight scene happened through his uncle, a farmer in Iowa. After hearing a conversation between him and another friend about how the middle man always makes money, Andy decided to become just that by getting a degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Iowa State University. Even though he was told that “more people fall into this major more so than intentionally get into it”, he was not easily discouraged. 

Choosing the Right Path

“I showed up at Iowa State University. I was gonna be in the College of Business, and I was reading descriptions, and I was like, ‘Which one's the middleman?’ They had a degree in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, so I signed up for that. I remember the first week of school, somebody in the College of Business saying, ‘You don't get a lot of freshmen that come here to do Logistics and Supply Chain Management.’ I was like, “Oh yeah, well that's what I want to do.” She was kind of like, ‘People fall into this business, or fall into this major, more so than intentionally get into it”. 

Career at Echo Logistics

After finishing school, Andy landed at Echo Logistics, going from Project Manager to Product Manager, over a span of fifteen years.

He brought us behind the scenes of the creation of Echo by Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, who initially started a paper printing service company where they aggregated printing services.

“They had to buy a lot of transportation, LTL freight specifically, because they were shipping a skid here, a skid there. And the process of working with the LTL companies was really antiquated: it was a phone call. You weren't getting any discount on your freight. So they're like, ‘We could be disruptive in this space.’ You know, by happenstance, a lot of things kind of came together. It was disruptive, and they just kept on adding logistics talent after logistics talent through the years. So where we sit today is kind of fascinating because, you know, a lot of this was not built up.”

Advice for Entrepreneurs

He also shared a golden nugget of advice for those who have their own business or want to open one. “Technology is really cheap to build. And there are a lot of people that can build the base functions very easily in this industry. Just let them do that. Focus on the things that are gonna differentiate you as a business, and be really good at those things. That might be where you use your proprietary dollar.”

Improving Broker Efficiency

Andy also emphasized the importance of making the processes for brokers more efficient. Around 27 percent of a broker's day is spent pricing and quoting. “The overwhelming majority is just understanding a price, finding the price sensitivity in the shipper, and understanding where they are on like a spectrum of service-to-price. So roadmap-wise, a big goal of ours is: how do we make that quoting process more efficient, more intelligent? How do we help underwrite that with AI opportunities?”

The Future of AI in the Job Market

When asked about the future of AI and the job market, Andy says that the finance industry has identified that entry-level jobs are going to be the first ones that AI can replace.

“What's going to happen to people that are coming out of college, that would be perfect for this industry? How are they going to find a home? I don't have answers for this, but that's how AI is going to first be implemented in the industry. Automated routed guides and automating sourcing capacity already had a big impact on document collection and how we attach PODs, and how we make check calls. The industry needs to prepare for that.”

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