Catching the tech wave as the A.I. tsunami builds

Posted on Jan 4, 2018 :: Editor , Editor’s Insights
Julia Flaherty
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

SHIPPING CONTAINERS SHOULD NOT be transported empty — it wastes fuel, money and harms the environment, obviously. So how do you solve this problem?

With technology, of course. That’s what MatchBack Systems used to develop a successful business model that helps shippers save money worldwide. Todd Ericksrud, president and CEO of the Green Bay-based software as a service organization, recognized that while some shippers attempted to fill empty containers, no stakeholder in the supply chain held all the information needed to coordinate matchbacks as a routine. He launched his company in 2014 and has since identified tens of millions of potential matchbacks, helping thousands of transportation companies save millions of gallons of diesel fuel.

With eight employees locally, a footprint in Europe and partners worldwide, Ericksrud believes he has so far reached less than 4 percent of the potential for what MatchBack Systems offers.

“More than 50 percent of the containers you see on the road are empty,” Ericksrud says in this month’s cover story by Senior Associate Editor Sean Johnson.

The business idea came to him when he worked at Schneider National managing port trade and global logistics. Perhaps it’s no surprise that he met Craig Dickman, CEO and founder of Green Bay-based Breakthrough Fuel, who also once worked at Schneider. His company (featured in Insight in 2012) uses technology to help shipping companies save money by identifying the lowest-cost fuel en route to their destinations. Both tapped ZyQuest, also in Green Bay (CEO Al Zeise was featured in Insight in 2015), to help develop the software they use.

MatchBack Systems was a 2017 Insight Innovation Award winner in the category Planet, announced at Insight’s THINC! event last May. Lanehub, another Green Bay shipping and logistics company that tapped ZyQuest, took first place in the pitch contest at Launch Wisconsin (now Kinnektor) in October.

Clearly, there’s a whole lot of innovation going on in the New North. What remains to be seen is how technology will impact existing industries as the capabilities of all things digital continues to grow exponentially.

At the New North Summit in December, Oliver Buechse and Kurt Hahlbeck introduced a new regional coalition, Advancing A.I. Wisconsin, which they launched in March 2017. Attendees were on the edge of their chairs as the co-founders of AAIW described how quickly technology is changing nearly every industry.

“I attended a presentation by a professor at Stanford University and he said the age of social is over and the age of A.I. is here!” Buechse said. “It was a big wakeup call.”

Robotics, the Internet of Things, pattern recognition involving voice and fingerprints, 3D printing, Waze (“Google Maps on steroids”), data collection and the digitization of everything — all of these and more will bring changes we can only imagine today, Hahlbeck said.

Jobs will be created — and jobs will be lost. Entire communities in Germany are already experimenting with a guaranteed living wage in preparation for the inevitable jobs that may be lost as dying industries are replaced by new industries, until workers can be retrained, Buechse said.

At Insight, we’ll keep you up to date on AAIW and other initiatives involving entrepreneurship and technology. In the meantime, we’re gearing up for our next THINC! event set for May 10. Look for details on how to nominate or apply for the Insight Innovation Awards on page 11.

Mark your calendar as well for our next InDevelopment event focusing on economic and commercial real estate development: March 13 at the Lambeau Field Atrium. The event will feature an update on TitletownTech, the partnership between the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft, designed to spur technology and innovation in the New North region. Watch for updates in our February issue and in our Insight blog at www.insightonbusiness.com.

Happy New Year!