Freelancer acquires Aussie freight marketplace Loadshift for $7.7 million

Aussie logistics tech platform Loadshift has been acquired by ASX-listed tech company Freelancer, for $7.7 million.

First launched back in 2007 by founder Phil Callaghan, Loadshift connects shippers and carriers for the marketplace of heavy transport services.

The entrepreneur first conceived of the idea when he bought a bulldozer himself, and was struggling to find an easy way to get it shipped.

And from day one, he’s had considerable interest from the industry.

“People were ringing us up saying ‘we always wanted to do this but we didn’t know how’,” Callaghan tells SmartCompany.

The business has been bootstrapped and growing year-on-year ever since. In 2020, the business recorded a 26.8% uptick in the number of freight requests received.

“Through all those years, people have been contacting us wanting to invest and wanting to buy.”

The business will be acquired by Freelancer, the freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace headed up by founder and chief — and influential Aussie entrepreneur — Matt Barrie.

It will sit alongside Freightlancer, Freelancer’s marketplace for freight, shipping and transport services.

The deal came as Callaghan was starting to consider what his next steps with Loadshift would be.

He had recently rolled out a swathe of new systems, programs and features, and was considering selling up in 2022. As it turned out, Barrie approached him a little earlier.

“Things just fell into place,” he explains.

“An entrepreneurial rest”

Callaghan himself will be stepping away from the business. But that wasn’t an easy decision to make. Like many business owners, he sees Loadshift as his ‘baby”.

“It is challenging to let it go.”

But, having started out with $10,000 and bootstrapped for 15 years, “we’ve sold happily”, he says.

The value of the acquisition represents a decade and a half of incredibly hard work, he explains.

“It represents time away from my family,” he adds.

“Small business owners here in Australia just plough that time and effort into their businesses with the hope and dream that it grows and matures.”

At the same time, Callaghan will welcome a change of pace. For one thing, the founder didn’t relish the idea of having a boss again, he admits.

And for another, “it takes a lot of effort to build a business”.

It’s late nights at the office and waking up at 3am worrying about what’s around the corner, he adds.

“I wouldn’t mind a bit of an entrepreneurial rest.”

Mass movement

The acquisition comes amid a flurry of activity in the logistics sector — one not traditionally associated with technology and innovation.

In Australia, freight tech is in its infancy, Callaghan suggests.

“It’s a really exciting time.”

Freight technology has been around for some time, Callaghan says. But the success of logistics tech companies such as Uber, combined with the introduction of new regulations in the US, means investors are now pricking up their ears.

Truckers have to fill in log books to record their breaks and rest stops, and show they’re not driving beyond legislated hours, he explains.

But in the US, drivers must now use digital, electronic log-in devices instead.

“Every truck in the States became like a note on the system, and they became very visible,” he says.

“All this tech was able to piggy-back off the back of that.”

It stands to reason that such policies will one day come into play in Australia and elsewhere around the world.

This sector is rapidly growing, Callaghan adds. We’re likely to see more digitisation, more investment and more players making their moves.

“Freight is like the funeral business. It’s never going away,” he says.

“Goods are always going to need to be delivered.”

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