When UConn alumnus and serial entrepreneur Nadav Ullman ‘12 (BUS) created Project N95, a national clearinghouse vetting PPE from around the world in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, he discovered something more daunting than a shortage of surgical masks and gloves.
He realized the whole global supply chain process was broken.
Despite a $9 trillion logistics industry, no one could tell him where his orders were at any given time. The vital link connecting international commerce was a calamity.
Ullman set out to fix that with his new company, Leverage, an artificial-intelligence-driven supply chain visibility platform. The company has raised more than $7 million, including a recent $5 million funding round that will be used to expedite its software engineering and customer-support teams.
“COVID further exposed how fragile the global supply chain is today, to the point that now everyone feels the effect of supply chain issues,’’ Ullman says. “The true problem is far more than just a few folks being frustrated that their Amazon orders are late.’’
“International trade and robust sustainable supply chains are the glue that keeps nations around the world connected and working together,’’ he says. “At Leverage, we’re creating sustainable, long-term technical solutions to solve these issues at a global scale.’’
Leverage is drawing tremendous interest, and is currently focusing on manufacturing, retail, and consumer products, all industries with numerous suppliers. Working with a company’s existing programs, Leverage creates a dashboard that tracks product from order to production to delivery.
“Demand for our services is growing quickly and it’s very exciting,’’ Ullman says.
Ullman Became an Entrepreneur at UConn
As an undergraduate at UConn, Ullman and friend Thomas Bachant ’13 (ENG) created Sobrio, a safe-ride service for college students. The two met through UConn’s Innovation Quest competition and their company ultimately expanded to six other college campuses. Sobrio preceded the arrival of the popular transportation-for-hire companies.
After graduation, the friends founded Dashride, a provider of mobile dispatching software for transportation companies. The business helped taxis and other automotive fleets improve efficiency and compete with ride-share services. In 2018, Dashride was acquired by Cruise GM, an autonomous driving company.
Subsequently, Ullman and Andrew Stroup created Project N95, which helped source personal protective equipment for frontline workers during the peak of COVID-19 pandemic. Ullman, Stroup, and their team worked with the COVID White House Task Force, the National Governors Association, investor Mark Cuban, Amazon, 3M, and countless major and regional healthcare organizations to acquire PPE.
“At first I thought it was only a vetting problem,’’ Ullman says. “But we ended up needing a 250-person team to run the global-supply chain operation. I looked for tech to solve it, and it just wasn’t there. The PPE was the first dilemma but then I realized the whole supply chain was broken; there was a bigger, macro-problem going on.’’
“One company might have as many as 500 suppliers, and tens of thousands of orders,” Ullman says. “A huge portion of their employees’ day is spent calling and emailing and asking, ‘Where’s my stuff?’ It is highly inefficient.’’
‘I Run to the Fire’
Although Ullman brings expertise in transportation, software, and artificial intelligence to a project, it is the thrill of the challenge that draws his interest.
“The core of it is that there are big problems that other people aren’t solving, and I’m in a unique position to help out,’’ he says. “When there’s overlap of technology and logistics, I’m intrigued. I guess I’m drawn to the big, hairy problems. I run to the fire!’’
In his business partnership with Stroup, they share the belief that without modernization, the next global supply-chain crisis is right around the corner. Stroup is the formerly the Director of Product and Technology for the Obama administration, as well as a former entrepreneur-in-residence for Bank of America. Like Ullman, he began his entrepreneurial journey in college.
Mark Cuban Predicts Leverage Will Succeed
The heart of Leverage’s work is to help supply-chain managers handle data, including PDFs, email attachments, and faxes, more seamlessly. The platform uses a central dashboard so that all stakeholders know the status of any order in real time, from purchase-order tracking to delivery.
“What competes the circle is the fact that we’re helping customers make demand forecasts based on supply-chain history,’’ Ullman says. “Now we can help companies predict what their future orders need to be and better predict risk.’’
Leverage’s latest funding round includes Las Olas Venture Capital, Great Oaks Venture Capital, the Gaingels investment syndicate, and entrepreneur Mark Cuban. In a written statement, Cuban said he is excited to be investing in the startup.
“It’s clear there’s going to be a lot of disruption in the supply-chain space, and I’m making the bet that Andrew and Nadav are the ones that are going to make it happen,’’ he says.