Steve Kochan is the Founder and CEO of Comfreight, a FinTech SaaS company. He is a former freight consultant who has transformed Comfreight from a weekend side project to an industry-leading FinTech product. In today’s ‘How Did You Do It?’, we sat down with Kochan to learn how he was able to outperform incumbents in the transportation financing industry.
Interviewer: Noela Tuquero (TCA)
Interviewee: Steve Kochan (SK)
TCA: Steve, What is Comfreight?
SK: One of the biggest problems for businesses in the freight industry is dealing with credit, finance, and payments. For many SMBs, the only existing financing options often feel like a necessary evil, with onerous terms and strict covenants. Comfreight is leveling the playing field for thousands of small and mid-sized freight companies. We provide debt-free trade finance solutions through digital invoice factoring, accounts receivable, and payable financing.
TCA: How does your solution benefit customers?
SK: Comfreight is 23-100% more cost-effective than traditional financing options, which makes us a welcome alternative. Our highly automated FinTech product, HaulPay, reduces back-office load for our customers by at least 300%. Our software automates workflows and eliminates 99% of payment fraud risk.
TCA: The transportation financing industry is well established, how did you break in?
SK: We found a way to provide the lowest risk for not only us but our clients. We have been able to outperform incumbents by 10x from a risk perspective. Our financing portfolio has a .02% per annum loss rate, which is 10-15x better than incumbents. Compared to the industry standard of 2-3%, our loss rates have allowed us to stand out.
TCA: How did you achieve those loss rates?
SK: Whereas incumbents use third-party software, we decided to build our own back-office software for finance and payments. Our software allows us to customize our credit management and risk management processes. It also lets us build more enterprise value over time. We developed a machine that is difficult to compete with and not easily replicated, adding to our mid-term defensibility and ultimately enabling a better customer experience.
TCA: How did you build your proprietary software?
SK: Two key aspects:
- Research. Talk directly with your potential clients. Without doing this, we would not have identified key limitations of existing software options. We studied incumbents and lower-tech competitors that were using “off-the-shelf” software and found that the funding request and invoicing processes, which were previously untouched and fairly standardized, could be greatly improved.
- Find the right engineers. Initially, we recruited talented and motivated software developers to join the company through networking. However, as we grew, we used platforms like AngelList (now WellFound) and other startup-friendly job sites, so that candidates knew they were applying to a startup and we knew they were interested in working at one from day one. If you are hiring for a critical position but are unsure of the details of their day-to-day role, find an advisor who has done it before. Take account cultural fit and working communication too. This is very important for a smooth and productive relationship with early-stage hires.
TCA: How did you fund the development of the software?
SK:Two key aspects:
- Provide investors with data-driven reasoning. We pitched our seed round to larger early-stage investors with data to back up our need to build much of our own backend software.
- Provide investors with market validation. Once, you have proven that there are customers who want or even love and need your product or service, it makes it much easier to support subsequent fundraising.
One cost-effective way to gain proof of concept is to put up a basic web form that details the product or service’s features and run a limited budget of ads aimed at your target audience. Track the conversion rate and feedback from these potential users to build even more evidence of market need. If you are more focused on enterprise rather than SMB or consumer, find strategic or larger companies that want to use your product or service and create a customer advisory board made up of some of their decision-makers. This will help support your product assumptions and allow you to continue to build a product that will succeed.
TCA: Can we help Comfreight?
SK: Two key aspects:We are currently raising an equity round to continue innovating and expanding Comfreight’s suite of services.
- If you’re an investor and would like to connect, please reach out.
- If you have connections to investors interested in the long-term evolution of the supply chain and logistics industry, please reach out.
TCA: How can people get in touch?
The views, information, or opinions expressed during the interview series is solely those of the individuals involved and do not necessarily represent those of Tech Coast Angels and its employees, consultants and interns. Tech Coast Angels is not responsible and does not verify for accuracy any of the information contained in the podcast series available for listening on this site. The primary purpose of this interview series is to inform. This Interview series does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.
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