Dan Khasis had a problem. He was on an extensive house-hunting mission in 2009 and got tired of his GPS navigating him through congested roads whenever he had to get to one of the dozen stops he planned for the day.
Khasis decided to make an app, Route4Me, which allowed him to input addresses and the app would calculate the best way to get between various stops without weaving into backed-up main roads.
The app was a quick success, but its initial appeal was just the start.
“We released the app and at that point we thought it was a success and that was beautiful. What happened is [that] people started reaching out to us,” Vice President of Operations for Route4Me George Shchegolev said.
Companies with logistics issues reached out to Route4Me and requested a slew of features to cater to their needs. Soon the simple phone app had a web interface, allowed uploading files, built-in splitting up routes among drivers or over multiple days, and more. The requests were endless.
“We essentially began building our platform on feedback,” Shchegolev said.
The house-hunting origins of the app are still useful to many users, but since its humble beginnings Route4Me has turned into a logistics solutions company with more than 1.2 million downloads on iOS and thousands of active subscriptions to the service. The majority of users are businesses that pay for the service as opposed to personal users who create fewer than 10 routes per month on average.
Logistics has become a popular topic as massive companies turn their gaze toward expediting deliveries or preparing for a future with drones and autonomous cars on the market.
In June, patents from Amazon revealed the company’s interest in creating “beehives” of drones that could delivery to locations difficult to reach by conventional means.
Other logistics companies have been swallowed up by larger corporations. Quintiq, a startup focused on supply chain optimization, was purchased by Dassault Systems in 2014 for $336 million. Verizon announced last month its intention to purchase Fleetmatics for $2.4 billion in cash.
Acquisition may be enticing, but Route4Me isn’t focusing on that end goal.
“Our mission is to allow smaller companies and middle companies to stay competitive with giants,” Shchegolev said.
He explained that for many larger companies, their preference is to develop an in-house technology that they own, rather than spend significant sums to acquire an established service.
“[Big companies] can spend $50 million to power deliveries, a guy who does $200 million in sales — they can’t afford spending that much when our platform gives them the same competitive edge,” Schegolev said.
The services of Route4Me, which was founded by Khasis and is based in Fort Lee, have expanded far past its home state of New Jersey. The company has employees everywhere from California, Florida and New York to Australia, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom.
The company still takes feedback from various customers but rather than respond directly to feature requests, it looks at commonly asked-for capabilities and to service the largest number of people.
“We take into consideration all the feedback we get from customers and incorporate that into our platform,” Shchegolev said. “Everyone said about the iPhone, ‘can we have copy and paste?’ And Steve Jobs said ‘Nobody needs copy and paste!’ But if a lot of people ask for it, you probably want to provide it.”
Some of the features added over the years include time windows and priority placing. For example, larger companies that employ full-time drivers have to take into account that each employee has a lunch break. Route4Me’s system allows for routes to be modified to accommodate these types of breaks.
As for priority, the system allows users to rank priority on each location if, for example, one specific location has been neglected in the past and has requested more reliable delivery times.
These services have also allowed for Route4Me to branch into fields outside of large-scale logistics. Local school buses, government couriers or smaller-scale delivery services can utilize Route4Me with scaling price packages.
The company is considering an SMS/email notification application that would allow parents to be notified when a school bus has arrived at its stop.
Looking forward, Route4Me’s platform is prepared for upcoming technologies such as autonomous cars and drones, but Schegolev said he is unsure how far away the market is from embracing those technologies.
“We want to build the best supply and logistics software,” Schegolev said. “What happens along the way is difficult to predict.”