Over the summer months, we featured case studies from New Silk Road Network's Cargo Tracking and Supply Chain Transparency partner Tive Inc. about the perishables and pharmaceutical industries. This month, our team had the pleasure of talking with Blerta Lataj, Referral Partner Manager at Tive Inc., about the story of Tive as a start-up, the challenges they faced and how they overcame them, the brand-new perspective they brought to cargo tracking, the incredible innovative new Tive products, and their future plans.
As with many businesses, Tive was born out of observing real-life problems. In this particular story, founder and CEO Krenar Komoni realized just how much time his father-in-law, the owner of a trucking company, spent on the phone tracking the whereabouts of his trucks all day. Krenar then set out to ease this stress by designing a GPS tracker that could be fitted onto the trucks, eliminating the need for constant check-up calls. Step by step, this basement project has flourished into a successful company with over 150 people.
In conversation with Blerta…
NSRN: This may seem like a classic start-up story, but we all know it was never as simple as it sounds. In the company's early days, what were some critical challenges the Tive team had to overcome?
Blerta: As with any start-up, we started from the ground up and faced many challenges back then, but we hung in there through hard times and refused to give up too soon. Initially we were struggling to find the perfect product market fit, we started by thinking about trackers for trucks, but it turned out that the market there was extremely crowded. There were already a lot of players who tracked trucks through ELD and GPS trackers, and we wanted to do something more. We then turned to look at tracking cargo, but it turned out to be much more complicated than we anticipated to come up with GPS trackers that also measures the condition of the cargo during shipment. We overcame those challenges by actively listening to our customers. We cold-called them, listened to them talk about their issues, and reshaped our solution based on their feedback. We realized that many wanted single-use trackers instead of having to deal with reverse logistics, and of course a lower price point. These were some of the core topics we had to address when we started Tive.
NSRN: So in the beginning, it was more or less just about the active location tracking of trucks, whereas the condition tracking of details such as temperature, humidity, shock impact came later?
Blerta: Correct. Initially, it was just about the location, but we soon discovered that there were already many players in the market who were offering the same solution, which motivated us to add something more. After thinking about what this market needed, we talked with the customer and realized they needed a different answer. Of course, they need to know where their shipments are, but on top of that, they were also interested in knowing the condition of the cargo for quality control and insurance purposes. That was what prompted us to invest into an innovative tracking system that can provide such information.
NSRN: Once you had such an innovative tracking system in place, was it easy to onboard new companies? How did the market react?
Blerta: It was still difficult in the beginning. Earlier we talked about the “product - market fit”, which we solved. Our product was definitely there, and the market was there, but still we didn’t have the “product-market-price” fit. You need to have all three elements aligned to make a breakthrough and that was not easy. Once we had all the pieces of the puzzle solved, we changed the trajectory of the company.
This is an important lesson for many technology companies out there. We were trying to use technology to solve a problem that was there—and needed to first understand the customer, not simply push new technology in front of them. Many companies start with tech instead of looking at the problem – and they don’t talk to the actual people who have that problem – this rarely leads to a good outcome.
NSRN: Which industries would you say were the early adopters?
Blerta: In the beginning we saw interest from the electronics industry as well as the pharma industry. As we grew, we started seeing a ton of interest from the food industry, however, the true early adopters were the electronics and pharma customers. As you can imagine, temperature control and condition monitoring is crucial for pharmaceutical logistics. We are constantly improving our product in order to cater to the most extreme temperature requirements.
NSRN: GPS trackers are not new. In fact, the first hand-held GPS device, the NAV 1000, was introduced in 1989. Implementing them into the logistics field seems like a logical step, however, from what we have gathered so far, there is still a long way to go before this becomes an industry norm. Why do you think that is? And what efforts do you think should be made from the shippers and logistic service providers side to push this?
Blerta: Technological advancement and efficiency are both crucial factors. If chips become smaller, you can fit more into a smaller area, and it becomes more practical. Another thing is cost. For example, SIM cards are now ubiquitous and more cost-effective than ever. There is just so much more innovation that is in the pipeline and we can't wait to see it all unfold at Tive and for our planet. As technology becomes more advanced, we will see a proliferation of trackers on every valuable asset moving around the globe because costs will no longer be a hindering factor. Customers may not want to put a tracker costing $200 on a shipment; but they most likely will if it is just $20. As the technology becomes more accessible, the price point will start to drop even more, and their usage will increase. It will take some years, but we are indeed heading in that direction. That's the good news!
Right now, every company in the shipping and logistics industry is going through a digital revolution to digitize their supply chain to make it more efficient within their entire ecosystem. This has happened in the warehouses and factories, and now it’s happening outside the four walls across the entire supply chain. We imagine the sort of technological advancement seen with the iPhone and the Fitbit, replicated in the cargo trackers industry. To stay competitive, organizations need to embrace digitization to become more efficient. I think companies need to move away from manual processes such as paperwork, phone calls, emails, and spreadsheets. By adopting digital methods for managing their businesses instead of manual techniques, companies will be able to leverage and grasp new opportunities, and quickly fuel their growth.
NSRN: As you mentioned earlier, certain industries are more accepting than others. Of course, this has a lot to do with the value of the goods. But do you see also see a difference between countries or continents? Considering that Tive has an international customer base, which ones are more inclined to adopt such technology?
Blerta: I think we can see the difference. Our earliest customers came from the USA, Canada and Germany. In general, the more a company embraces the digital age, the more likely they are to accept the new technology. This is purely from experience, but in general U.S. companies are more likely to embrace the latest technology and accept trackers in their shipments. Of course, that doesn’t mean that companies in other countries are not open to new technology, it’s just that certain markets might take a bit longer in the process. I see a lot of potential.
NSRN: In the last two months, we have done two case studies focusing respectively on the perishables and pharma logistics industry with Tive. We learnt that Tive’s trackers are not only capable of providing accurate real-time location information, but they also have condition sensors for temperature, light, humidity, and shock. How does Tive continuously stay ahead of the pack, and what do you think differentiates Tive most from other competitors in this field?
Blerta: We at Tive hold on to the notion of progress. We want change, and we want to innovate continuously. This quality is our single biggest differentiator in this market. Every one of us at Tive has that need and urge, and we never rest. While we celebrate our current accomplishments, we continually strive to improve things, fix problems, and bring innovation to this market, especially by listening to the needs of our customers.
NSRN: When it comes to GPS devices, the size, battery life, coverage, accuracy, and recyclability are all aspects that can impact the customer experience. Where do you see the next breakthrough in your industry in terms of technology advancement? How do you see this impacting your business?
Blerta: Well, I think it's perfect timing for that question because we just released our newest product in the market. It's called the Tive Tag. Tive Tag is the thinnest, easiest to use label for end-to-end cold chain monitoring of temperature-sensitive products. It is the most-cost effective solution for first and last mile cold chain visibility. It is almost paper thin and so small, that you can just stick it to the pallet or whatever you want to track.
Especially now, we believe this is a significant breakthrough in our industry because it is minimally electronic. This means that it has minimal electronic waste, a non-lithium battery, non-hazardous materials, RoHS compliant, ease of use and reusable for 1+ years. Eventually real-time trackers will also get closer to the Tive Tag level of simplicity and sustainability. People in the perishables market are going to love it. Stick, Tap, Ship - it is easy like that. Using your iPhone or Android, tap the Tag to start. When a shipment arrives, tap the Tag again to collect the temperature data from its origin to its destination. You can now manage your shipments on a simple app on your mobile or computer. It's a fascinating product when it comes to technological advancements, and it’s a huge achievement that we are super happy about.
NSRN: With a reportedly over 300% growth in revenue and more than 200 new customers in 2021, it seems that Tive has cracked the code for success. Earlier this year, Tive Inc. also successfully closed a $54M Series B funding. Equipped with this cash boost and also riding the wave of a scorching logistics market, where do you see the next milestones for Tive? What areas are you specifically focusing on developing right now?
Blerta: We have a lot of plans. For us, it was a long way to get here, but it's going to be a long way to get to the point that we are thinking of. We want to be part of everyday operations for the shipper and logistics service providers. We want to be there for them and work with them on a daily basis. Today, if you are searching for something, you will go to Google, that's your immediate thought. If you want to buy something, you will most likely go to Amazon. Amazon is literally the face of e-commerce. Our goal is an ambitious one for sure, but in 2 to 3 years, we want to be the Google and Amazon for those in supply chain and logistics who want to know where their shipments are. We want them to think only one name and that's going to be Tive.
Our current focus is on advancing our software platform for our customers and releasing new products. We will soon release temperature probes designed to meet the needs of critical cold chain customers. As mentioned earlier, pharma products are sensitive. We need to do a lot of work around the product to ensure that we can monitor necessary conditions. We are working really hard to release these temperature probes that we designed especially for the needs of our cold chain customers. We will continue to innovate our solution to deliver the best-in-market products, software, and services.
NSRN: Could you give our readers a few examples of the extreme conditions certain pharma or medical transportations need?
Blerta: Our key focus now is on temperature condition. One type of transport we are dealing with is that of human organs. There the temperature accuracy must be 100% certain. When transportation mishaps are caught early, it is often possible to stabilize and reroute a shipment quickly. In the case of a live organ, that instant identification of a problem can mean the difference between life or death for a patient waiting to receive a transplant, so you want to make sure that you can trust the temperature data from the tracker completely. With this new chip integrated in Tive trackers, you can download a report that meets the pharma requirements and be certain the measurements you’re getting for those shipments are 100% accurate. Of course, temperature is not the only factor that matters when it comes to pharmaceutical visibility. Real-time, hyper specific location tracking is Tive’s bread and butter, and this service is vital for managing time-critical shipments like organs and vaccines.
Currently, Tive’s hyper-accurate, multi-sensor Solo 5G trackers can capture and transmit shipment location and temperature data in real time. The trackers cover a wide range of temperatures to support cold chain requirements—including dry ice and cryogenic shipments. On top of that, the Tive cloud application delivers excursion alerts for quick intervention and provides actionable insights to help logistics professionals identify supply chain improvements. But the quest continues and a lot of new things are happening. We will share everything with you at the perfect time!
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