Route planning sounds like it's a problem for big logistics companies like Amazon, FedEx and UPS, but in reality, it's something every small business with more than a few mobile employees deals with. OptimoRoute, which today announced that it has raised a $6.5 million Series A round led by Prelude Ventures, is tackling exactly this problem. Built by a team of former Google and Yelp engineers, the service allows businesses to set their specific constraints and then automatically creates daily routes for their drivers, no matter whether they are doing deliveries or cleaning pools.
What makes OptimiRoute stand out from some of its competitors in this space isn't just its often significantly lower prices but also that it offers drivers and customers a mobile experience that includes live tracking and ETAs and the ability to change routes in real time as necessary. With OptimoRoute, companies can plan for specific days of the week or up to five weeks in advance. The company is also currently testing a pickup and delivery system for both passengers and goods, as well as support for multi-day long-haul routes.
As the company's co-founder and CEO Marin Šarić told me, route optimization is obviously a popular academic problem. "On the one side, you do have these academic problems that are very proof of concept and minimalistic," he said. "And then, in the commercial space, you have software that is running -- in our estimation -- algorithms that have been well known in the previous century, literally, you know there's even things from the 80s. [...] We at OptimoRoute really worry about the real-world constraints of what it means to build an effective schedule."
OptimoRoute takes into account a number of variables (how much material can fit into a van, hourly wages, skills needed to perform a certain repair, etc.) and lets companies choose different priorities for optimizing their routes.
"We're really focused on trying to make this technology available for everyone and this is appreciated even by very senior experienced logistics managers because they can focus on problems they're trying to solve as opposed to working around hiccups with the software," explained Šarić.
Currently, OptimoRoute has about 800 customers that range from small businesses to large energy companies like Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, which manages the routes of more than 300 maintenance technicians with the help of the service. By reducing the mileage employees have to drive, users not only see increased productivity from their employees but, as Šarić noted, also reduce their overall carbon footprint.
The team spent a lot of time on developing the basic algorithms that power the service. The team, though, expected that a lot of its users would be very sophisticated logistics managers, but it turned out that there was a lot of demand from small and medium businesses, too.
"Prelude is excited to help OptimoRoute expand its reach and further develop its offerings for a multitude of mobile workforces," said Victoria Beasley, partner, Prelude Ventures . "We strongly believe that OptimoRoute is set to have a huge impact on the route optimization market, saving time, money and resources, while also reducing carbon footprint, for their many diverse clients."