#106: Benjamin Gordon Founder and Managing Partner of Cambridge Capital

#106: Benjamin Gordon Founder and Managing Partner of Cambridge Capital Featured Image

Benjamin Gordon is the founder and Managing Partner of Cambridge Capital, a West Palm Beach-based investor in leading transportation, logistics, and supply chain technology companies.

At Cambridge Capital, Benjamin seeks to invest in high-growth companies in supply chain. Examples include Grand Junction (sold to Target), XPO, Bringg, and others. Cambridge adds value through operating expertise, M&A, and CEO relationships in supply chain.

As CEO of BG Strategic Advisors, LLC (“BGSA”), Benjamin built the firm, advising on over $1 billion worth of supply chain transactions. Benjamin has worked with firms such as UPS, DHL, Kuehne & Nagel, Agility Logistics, NFI Logistics, GENCO, Nations Express, Raytrans, Echo Global, Dixie, Wilpak, and others.

Prior to BGSA Holdings, Ben founded 3PLex, the Internet solution enabling third-party logistics companies to automate their business. Benjamin raised $28 million from blue-chip investors including Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, BancBoston Ventures, CNF, and Ionian. 3PLex was then purchased by Maersk. Prior to 3PLex, Benjamin advised transportation and logistics clients at Mercer Management Consulting. Prior to Mercer, Benjamin worked in his family’s transportation business, AMI, where he helped the company expand its logistics operations.

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Connect with the Guest:

Benjamin Gordon: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • Benjamin journey in logistics, how he pitched his grandfather, and why he was rejected
  • His first start-up and most expensive mistakes
  • The 4 things he looks at to evaluate startups
  • How to spot a good deal in investment banking
  • How will the 3PL industry look like in 10 years

Show notes:

  • [01:37] How did you end up in logistics? I read somewhere that there’s some family history as well. Maybe tell us your story.
  • [04:47] Out of the rejection of my first idea came to a better second idea which led to a real company and that was what led me to start my first business and send me on the journey into logistics.
  • [06:13] What are you looking at when deciding whether or not a company is worth investing in, that it is a good startup or scale-up?
  • [07:26] These are the four things we look for a big market, compelling solution, outstanding management, and a deal that makes sense. And when we see all those four in one place then that is great.
  • [09:34] Can you give us some examples of mistakes done in the past as well where it seemed like it’s great and then turned out not to be?
  • [11:17] In my first company, 3PLex, an obvious and in hindsight very stupid mistake we made was just qualifying our customers to make sure that they actually had the infrastructure to be able to use what we had.
  • [12:18] Jim Collins likes to say fire bullets first and cannonball second. And I love that concept because what it means is you start with little investments and then when you prove they succeed, you make bigger ones.
  • [14:15] I wanted to ask you about the topic of 3PL and what’s happening. You were part of a deal recently with Werner and Scan Global Logistics? And you posted the question at some point on LinkedIn, if you see a consolidation in the industry. Maybe now it’s your turn to share your thoughts and how you see it moving forward.
  • [16:26] If you look at all the value growth in the transportation logistics markets last year, one of the biggest shifts was the shift to parcel. UPS, FedEx, and DHL added $110 billion of market value in a year, which is about a staggering 40% increase in their market value.
  • [18:00] How do you see the 3PL industry in ten years?
  • [19:15] Amazon’s a pretty good example of convergence because they’re combining freight forwarding, truck brokerage, last mile, and other services. Amazon will ultimately likely be the world’s largest logistics company across all those areas.
  • [20:44] I’m not one of those people that thinks that somehow truck brokerage and freight forwarding will disappear because the internet will automate it and disintermediate them. I think it’s not about man versus machine, I think it’s more likely man plus machine. In other words, I think the logistics companies that invest aggressively in technology and automation are the guys that will be the winners.
  • [23:42] What are some principles that you’ve seen in properly integrating such entrepreneurial tech-driven startups?
  • [26:11] If the technology boosts your productivity, you win more customers, and the people become a part of the next iteration of building the business. I think those are the three things that a buyer needs to think about when they’re acquiring somebody in technology.
  • [26:31] The sales cycle of corporate continues to be long and arduous while startups thrive on speed and need quick traction. What’s the secret formula to overcome this?
  • [27:27] The biggest objective, in the beginning, is to figure out who’s your customer, who’s the decision-maker, and what does he or she really wants. And then number two, figure out how to speak the language of your customer.
  • [31:05] What are your thoughts on this whole concept of e-commerce growth and what it would mean?
  • [33:41] If you’re looking to do more in the last mile, you could look at the services companies, but also look at the technology companies because there are lots of areas in which you could invest or acquire to give you that true door-to-door capability that you were asking about.
  • [34:26] What are some of the tips and tricks to not fall for the fluff and at the same time dig a little bit below the surface and to identify which is truly a good deal and which is not?
  • [36:18] Number one is flip to the back page and look at the numbers. Number two is to ask yourself the question, what is it that they have that’s really great.
  • [38:34] Our model is to look for great companies and great entrepreneurs, who are not just looking for money but are also looking for a partner that can help in a meaningful way.
  • [38:56] What is your view about Latin America specifically after the investment in a LATAM Unicorn?
  • [40:09] There was a time in the past when if you wanted to build a tech company, you had to do it in Silicon Valley. That’s not the case anymore, there’s tech talent all over the world. And it turns out that Colombia has actually become a hub for great tech talent.
  • [41:41] Companies that offer sustainable environmentally positive solutions do they make lucrative ROI candidates? And just in general the whole idea of sustainability. Tell us a little bit about your thoughts. Do you also have a specific focus?
  • [42:49] We think of sustainability as using technology to build a more efficient supply chain.
  • [44:20] For us at Cambridge, we tend to focus more on investing in great businesses with great people where there’s a quick impact through the incremental sustainability benefits on the logistic side and on the technology side.

Related Episodes:

#102: Bonnie Fetch Vice President Global Supply Chain at Cummins

#103: Essa Al-Saleh Chairman of the Board of Volta Trucks

#105: Colin Bryar Co-author of Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon

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LEX GREENSILL​

Chief Executive Officer, Greensill​

Lex is the co-founder and CEO of Greensill, and a Senior Advisor and Crown Representative to Her Majesty’s Government on Supply Chain Finance. He was awarded the CBE for Services to the British Economy in Queen Elizabeth II’s 2017 Birthday Honours.

Lex previously established the global SCF business at Morgan Stanley, and led the EMEA SCF business at Citi.

Lex holds an MBA from Manchester Business School, and is a Solicitor of the Supreme Courts of England and Wales, and Queensland.