- Supply chain visibility startup FourKites raised $100 million last year for a total of $200 million.
- FourKites just acquired European trucking tech firm NIC-place for an undisclosed sum.
- The company has made four acquisitions in three years and has at least three more in its pipeline.
Supply chain visibility startup FourKites has made four acquisitions in three years and it’s about to pick up the pace, CEO Matt Elenjickal told Insider.
The Chicago-headquartered global startup, which attempts to track shipping containers like shoppers track packages, announced its latest acquisition Tuesday, buying German trucking tech firm NIC-place for an undisclosed sum.
In 2020, FourKites acquired TrackX-Yard Management, a tech company that monitors the equipment within logistics hubs and warehouses, along with engineering firm Blue Newt. (The latter deal wasn’t publicly announced.) In 2021 it acquired Haven, a logistics software startup with $20 million raised.
“We are looking at providing visibility at an order level end-to-end, right from the demand point all the way to supply,” Elenjickal said. “All the acquisitions that we have in the pipeline, they are unique, small, product acquisitions that help us accelerate that vision.”
NIC-place could give FourKites a competitive edge in Europe, which has proven a difficult nut to crack for visibility providers, since the structure of the trucking market makes individual loads harder to track.
Since NIC-place provides the same service to truck fleet operators that FourKites seeks to provide shippers, shifting from customer to acquirer will help FourKites give customers like Coca-Cola, AB InBev, and Walmart a fuller picture of their goods moving around the world.
Elenjickal plans to invest $30 million in the German company in the next year, and the NIC-place deal offers a preview of the pipeline the CEO is building.
Granularity over growth
Ekenjickal didn’t offer an exact number of targets for 2022, but he said there are at least three active deals in his pipeline. The targets vary, but the CEO was adamant that none of them will have the goal of boosting FourKites’ revenue or customer base.
In fact, the total revenue of the acquisitions he’s made to date is less than $2 million, he said.
Big acquisitions by competitors have led to glued-together tools that are difficult for customers to use, according to Elenjickal. “We have customers coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, I have to log into one platform for rail, one platform for last mile, one platform for ocean.’ That’s just not a good experience,” he said.
His plan to acquire small firms runs counter to the flashy direction logistics tech is headed as founders put their vast war chests to use. Competitor Project44, for example, is also on an acquisition tear and announced another $420 million investment round last week.
But Elenjickal paints a stark contrast with his fundraising philosophy. “We like disciplined growth,” he said. “If we don’t have any cash flow issues, we don’t have to raise money.”
Acquihires on fire
FourKites is aggressively growing its team and acquisitions will almost certainly be a part of that. In today’s tight labor market, acquihires are an important way to grab talent, Elenjickal said. FourKites has about 100 open positions right now and the CEO wants to hire 30 salespeople in the next two weeks.
He made an unannounced acquisition of Blue Newt in December of 2020, just to bring in 30 engineers and the company’s chief technology officer, who’s now FourKites’ CTO. And since at least one founder from each of the four companies FourKites has acquired is still in place, it would be easy to call these acquihires too.
“If you talk to a company and they’re looking for a quick cash exit, we say we have no interest,” he said.