Listen Here

| |

Conversation
Highlights

 

Welcome to another episode of Unicorn Builders. Today, our unicorn builder is Michael Wax, CEO and founder of Forto, a logistics tech platform that has raised nearly $600 million in funding. Forto is at the cutting edge of revolutionizing global logistics through technology, making shipping cargo worldwide more efficient and transparent for companies of all sizes.

  • Michael’s entrepreneurial journey, starting from founding Konux, a sensor and analytics company, at 23, to creating Forto, a leading logistics tech platform.
  • The inspiration behind Forto and the vision to transform the logistics industry by leveraging technology for greater efficiency and transparency.
  • The early challenges of transitioning from the academic world to entrepreneurship and the pivotal role of mentorship and peer networks in Munich’s startup ecosystem.
  • Insights into the foundational days of Forto, from ideating the concept to securing the first paying customer through proactive networking and a bold value proposition.
  • The strategic focus on niche markets such as Amazon FBA importers in the early stages to quickly gain traction and validate the business model.
  • Michael’s approach to fundraising, emphasizing the importance of storytelling, investor alignment, and the art of navigating stakeholder dynamics effectively.
  • The significance of building a strong company culture and team as the cornerstone of Forto’s success, including attracting top talent and maintaining a growth-oriented mindset.
  • Michael’s reflection on leadership, the continuous pursuit of innovation, and the commitment to solving meaningful problems in the logistics industry on a global scale.
  • The future vision for Forto as the backbone of global trade, aiming to create a seamless, technology-driven platform for international shipping and logistics operations.

Actionable
Takeaways

Niche Market Penetration as a Foundation for Scale:

Forto's strategic decision to initially focus on Amazon FBA importers demonstrates a targeted approach to market entry. The actionable takeaway is to identify and dominate a niche market where your solution can solve specific, acute pain points. This concentrated effort allows for rapid validation and iteration, setting a foundation for broader market expansion.

Customer Education as a Key Differentiator:

In pioneering a tech-driven solution in a traditional industry, Forto invested in educating its market about the benefits of digital logistics solutions. For GTM strategies, emphasizing customer education—particularly around innovative solutions that challenge the status quo—can accelerate market adoption and establish your company as a thought leader.

Iterative Product Development Based on Customer Feedback:

Forto's early adoption of customer feedback loops for refining its product highlights the importance of building a feedback-rich GTM strategy. This involves continuous engagement with your initial customer base to understand their evolving needs and adapt your offering accordingly, ensuring product-market fit remains strong as you scale.

Build a Positive Flywheel:

Michael emphasized the importance of creating a positive flywheel in your company, where each successful decision, makes the next step easier — amazing investors attracts amazing talent, and amazing talent build products that attracts amazing customers. This concept is crucial for startups, as it underscores the importance of making thoughtful, strategic decisions early on to fuel long-term growth and avoid a negative spiral.

Balance Reliability with Novelty in Your Messaging:

To build trust while emphasizing innovation, succinctly communicate your track record of delivering reliable solutions alongside your commitment to pushing industry boundaries. This can be achieved by tightly integrating customer success stories with highlights of your innovative features in all marketing materials, ensuring potential clients see you as both a dependable partner and a trailblazer.

Keep Founders Engaged in Sales Beyond the Transition:

Even after building a sales team, ensure founders remain involved in strategic sales discussions and key client meetings. This ongoing involvement underscores the importance of sustaining the founder's influence in shaping client relationships and maintaining the company's core values in every deal.

Recommended Founder
Interviews

Barr Moses

Co-Founder & CEO of Monte Carlo

Barr Moses: the GTM Story of Monte Carlo ($1.6 Billion Valuation)

Marcelo Lebre

President of Remote

Marcelo Lebre: the Story of Remote ($3 Billion+ Valuation)

Jean Paul Chauvet

CEO of Lightspeed

Jean Paul Chauvet: the Story of Lightspeed ($2+ Billion Valuation)

Justin Borgman

CEO and Co-Founder of Starburst

Justin Borgman: the Story of Starburst ($3+ Billion Valuation)

Martin Mao

CEO of Chronosphere

Martin Mao: The Story of Chronosphere ($1.6 Billion Valuation))

Dave Wessinger

CEO and Co-Founder of PointClickCare

Dave Wessinger: the Story of PointClickCare ($5 Billion Valuation)

Steffen Tjerrild

Co-Founder, CFO & COO of Synthesia

Steffen Tjerrild: The Story of Synthesia ($1 Billion Valuation)

Harrison Rose

Co-Founder of Paddle

Harrison Rose: the Story of Paddle ($1.4 Billion Valuation)

Arif Nathoo

CEO and Co-Founder of Komodo Health

Arif Nathoo: the Story of Komodo Health ($3 Billion Valuation)

Tom Jermoluk

CEO of Beyond Identity

Tom “TJ” Jermoluk: The GTM Storyteller of Beyond Identity ($1.1 Billion Valuation)

Abhay Parasnis

Founder and CEO of Typeface

Abhay Parasnis: the Story of Typeface ($1 Billion Valuation)

Arvind Jain

CEO of Glean

Arvind Jain: the Story of Glean ($1 Billion Valuation)

Milin Desai

CEO of Sentry

Milin Desai: The Story of Sentry ($3+ Billion Valuation)

Henrique Dubugras

Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Brex

Henrique Dubugras: the Story of Brex ($12 Billion+ Valuation)

Michel Tricot

Co-Founder & CEO of Airbyte

Michel Tricot: the Story of Airbyte ($1.5 Billion Valuation)

Hari Ravichandran

CEO & Founder of Aura

Hari Ravichandran: the Story of Aura ($2.5 Billion Valuation)

Kyle Clark

Team Member of Beta Technologies

Kyle Clark: the Story of Beta ($1.2 Billion Valuation)

Doron Myersdorf

CEO of StoreDot

Doron Myersdorf: the Story of StoreDot ($1.2 Billion Valuation)

Jeff Denworth

Co-Founder of VAST Data

Jeff Denworth: The Story of VAST Data ($9.1 Billion Valuation)

Tomer Shiran

Founder of Dremio

Tomer Shiran: the Story of Dremio ($2 Billion Valuation)

Gary Hoberman

CEO & Founder of Unqork

Gary Hoberman: the GTM Story of Unqork ($2B+ Valuation)

Guy Tytunovich

CEO & Co-Founder of CHEQ

Guy Tytunovich: the Story of CHEQ ($1+ Billion Valuation)

Spike Lipkin

CEO and Co-founder of Newfront

Spike Lipkin: the GTM Story of Newfront ($2.2 Billion Valuation)

Rodrigo Liang

Co-Founder and CEO of SambaNova

Rodrigo Liang: the Story of SambaNova ($5+ Billion Valuation)

Karl Siebrecht

Co-Founder & CEO of Flexe

Karl Siebrecht: the Story of Flexe (1+ Billion Valuation)

Tom Livne

CEO & Founder of Verbit

Tom Livne: the Story of Verbit ($2 Billion Valuation)

Michael Witte

CEO & Co-founder of Workrise

Michael Witte: Workrise: the GTM Story of Workrise ($3 Billion Valuation)

Kevin Busque

CEO and Founder of Guideline

Kevin Busque: the Story of Guideline ($1.1B+ Valuation)

Marc-Alexander Christ

Co-Founder of SumUp

Marc-Alexander Christ: the Story of SumUp ($8.5 Billion Valuation)

Jeremy Johnson

CEO & Co-Founder of Andela

Jeremy Johnson: the Story of Andela ($1.5 Billion Valuation)

Jerome Ternynck

Founder and CEO of SmartRecruiters

Jerome Ternynck: the Story of SmartRecruiter ($1.5 Billion Valuation)

Sean Duffy

Co-Founder & CEO of Omada Health

Sean Duffy: the Story of Omada Health ($1+ Billion Valuation)

Ajay Kulkarni

CEO of Timescale

Ajay Kulkarni: the Story of Timescale ($1+ Billion Valuation)

Arik Shtilman

CEO of Rapyd

Arik Shtilman: the Story of Rapyd ($15 Billion Valuation)

Joseph DeSimone

Chairman and Co-Founder of Carbon

Joseph DeSimone: the Story of Carbon ($2.5 Billion Valuation)

Jack Newton

CEO and Co-founder of Clio

Jack Newton: the Story of Clio ($100M+ in ARR)

Henry Kim

CEO & Co-Founder of Swiftly

Henry Kim: The GTM Story of Swiftly ($1B+ Valuation)

Johanna Småros

Co-Founder & Chief Sustainability Officer of RELEX Solutions

Johanna Småros: the Story of RELEX Solutions ($5.7 Billion Valuation)

Tony Jamous

CEO of Oyster

Tony Jamous: the Story of Oyster ($1.1 Billion Valuation)

David Blake

CEO of Degreed

David Blake: the Story of Degreed ($1.3 Billion Valuation)

Federico Larsen

CTO and Co-Founder of Copado

Federico Larsen: the Story of Copado ($1.2 Billion Valuation)

Raj De Datta

CEO & Co-founder of Bloomreach

Raj De Datta: the GTM Story of Bloomreach ($2.2 Billion Valuation)