Originally published at wsj.com on April 3, 2019.
Acquisitions of Truckstop.com and GlobalTranz come as investment is pouring into technology-focused companies in the shipping arena.
Private-equity firms bought two big freight-services providers in separate deals announced Wednesday, the latest in a string of investments in businesses that help manage the flow of goods through supply chains.
Iconiq Capital LLC acquired a majority stake in Internet Truckstop Group LLC, whose Truckstop.com online freight marketplace connects shippers with available trucks on the industry’s spot market. Founded in 1995, Truckstop.com was the first digital load board and was founder-owned until 2016, when it received an additional equity investment from Bregal Sagemount.
In another deal, Providence Equity Partners LLC bought GlobalTranz Enterprises Inc. just eight months after the freight brokerage and logistics firm was acquired by Jordan Co. Providence was an earlier investor in GlobalTranz, a technology-focused company that earlier this week announced its ninth acquisition since January 2017.
Terms of both transactions weren’t disclosed.
Iconiq, which invests money for Silicon Valley founders and counted Mark Zuckerberg as an early client, is ramping up its private-equity investing.
Its controlling stake in Truckstop.com’s parent provides access to a network of carriers and shippers that already use its digital load board and other services such as freight tracking and visibility tools. The company said Iconiq’s investment will help the company develop more technology products.
“The $1 trillion freight industry is primed for incredible growth and technology adoption in the coming years, as tech-enabled platforms are increasingly essential for managing operations, reducing costs and improving efficiency,” Iconiq partner Will Griffith said in a statement.
Internet Truckstop Group doesn’t disclose annual revenue, but a spokesman said the company has been profitable since its founding.
Phoenix-based GlobalTranz reported $1.4 billion in gross revenue last year, up 62% from the prior year.
GlobalTranz’s sale to Providence “is a big winner for the Jordan Company, as it appears to mean they are doubling their money in less than a year,” said Benjamin Gordon, managing partner at Cambridge Capital LLC, a private-equity firm that invests in the supply-chain sector.
A representative for Providence said the company wouldn’t comment on the size of the deal.
GlobalTranz’s technology-focused business includes providing logistics software and cloud-based transportation management systems. The company has more than 1 million product users and 25,000 shippers. The transaction with Providence is expected to close within 60 days.
The deals reflect the market’s ongoing demand for transportation technology companies and continued opportunities for consolidation in the fragmented logistics sector, Mr. Gordon said.
Both Truckstop.com and GlobalTranz operate in a market heavy with technology-focused upstarts that have attracted multimillion-dollar investments from venture-capital and private-equity firms.
Digital freight management startups drew more than $420 million in new backing between 2011 and mid-2018, according to industry analysts Armstrong & Associates LLC, and passenger ride-matching heavyweight Uber Technologies Inc. has entered the business with its Uber Freight brokerage unit.
Last year, freight-booking startup Convoy raised $185 million in a funding round led by an investment arm of Google parent companyAlphabet Inc. This February, SoftBank Group Corp.’s Vision Fund led a $1 billion round of funding in Flexport Inc., a six-year-old international shipping broker built by Silicon Valley technology developers.
Meanwhile, trucking and logistics companies such as J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and XPO Logistics Inc., which already have brokerage operations and access to large volumes of freight, are developing their own digital marketplaces.