Among the most popular trip-plan-assist mobile apps for truckers of all stripes is Trucker Path, which has come a long way from its start-up days in 2013, when Overdrive first wrote about the company on the occasion of a 2nd-place finish in the L.A. Auto Show’s start-up competition. Since, the company’s made strides in crowd-sourcing parking info for truck-stop locations within the app, among many other added features, and launched the Truckloads mobile-centric load board and associated app as well.
Renren (NYSE, RENN), a global company that operates a social networking platform in China and multiple internet finance businesses in the U.S., has newly acquired Trucker Path for an undisclosed amount in an effort to enter the U.S. transportation industry. Renren has been a longtime partner and investor in Trucker Path, since the very formation of the company.
Renren CEO Joseph Chen says the acquisition came about for several particular reasons, not least among them the close relationship his company has had with the app as a longtime venture investor. Renren believes Trucker Path is poised to grow in several ways — in the short term, by adding turn-by-turn navigation — with the rise in utility of artificial intelligence to build efficiencies in trucking operations with increased transactional security to be had with a blockchain architecture.
“We think transportation is definitely an industry that can benefit” from blockchain architecture. Every trucking transaction is of a “high-enough value to warrant industry-grade technology to make sure it’s safe and secure.”
With 600,000-plus truckers utilizing the Trucker Path app today, Chen envisions the Trucker Path of the future as the “social ground” on which independent parties and affiliated services like Truckloads can leverage their abilities with confidence in added security.
Chen came to be interested in what the Trucker Path company was doing partly out of personal interest in the automotive space and trucking itself. After his family came to the United States in the 1980s, he drove truck for a time in their grocery business between Delaware and New York City/New Jersey. At MIT, he studied mechanical engineering and then worked for a construction equipment company in Alabama that made, among other things, mobile truck equipment, bucket trucks, pressure-line washers and more. All in all, “my first seven-eight years in the United States was involved in trucking in some fashion.”
He would go on to an MBA at Stanford and a close focus on online business, however, and about four years ago noticed car services like Uber and Lyft for the passenger market rising, likewise “older start-ups in China and all over the world,” really, Chen says. “It was too late to invest in those companies. ‘Why don’t we look at trucking?'”
Renren found Trucker Path and a variety of other businesses around the world, many centered in business-to-business transportation markets.
The Trucker Path acquisition is intended to take the app and its affiliated services “to the next level,” Chen says. “I think that the next 20 years will be most exciting for the trucking industry globally as we gradually get more technology into the industry.”
Navigation could come to the app within months. An electronic logging device service could follow, too.
Big-picture, Chen says, blockchain architecture and artificial intelligence are on the long-term horizon. “Trucker Path’s large customer base will enable it to increase the adoption of these two technologies in the industry. Blockchain can make freight transactions secure and fast, while artificial intelligence can help drivers be more efficient.”
This is not the first business that Renren operates in the U.S. Its portfolio of companies includes Chime CRM, Geographic Farm and Sindeo — all serving the real estate industry. It has also been active in funding startups, for example SoFi and LendingHome.