The digital platform transforming Mexico’s trucking industry
Solvento is changing the way truckers are paid, opening vast opportunities for economic empowerment and growth.
Juan Tiburcio Martínez Arrazola has run a small trucking company in Mexico City for more than 34 years. But it wasn’t until last year, when he joined the transportation-focused financial platform Solvento, that he was able to get the liquidity he needed to pay for truck repairs and finance upfront expenses to take on a new job. Why did it take so long?
Truckers across Mexico and Latin America at large have long faced this same challenge. In Mexico, the US$90 billion trucking industry is extremely fragmented, including more than 200,000 trucking companies, 95 percent of which have less than 30 trucks in their fleet. Unable to secure credit from lenders, these small trucking companies operate on razor-thin margins while forced to cover large upfront expenses like fuel, tolls, driver salaries, and fleet maintenance. “When you put these two together there’s a huge mismatch in what’s going on,” says Jaime Tabachnik, co-founder of Solvento. “These small truckers haven’t been able to grow their companies for decades.”
Payments in the transportation industry are incredibly complex. With each transaction requiring its own receipt, there is a massive amount of invoicing required. And variable charges such as late fees and unloading maneuver charges further complicate the process. As a result, there’s an auditing process in place to ensure invoices are correct, which slows down payment time significantly, often taking up to 30 days to complete. Add onto that the 90+ day accounts payable policy followed by many large enterprises, giving them more than three months to pay truckers for services, and the result is a trucking industry with cash flow constraints and little ability to grow.
The scale of this problem is what prompted Tabachnik to seek out a solution. With commercial tension between the U.S. and China leading to the reshoring of activities, the trucking industry in Mexico alone is expected to double in the next five years from US $90 billion to 180 billion, according to a recent Mordor Intelligence report. Couple that with a driver shortage due to limited growth opportunities, and there’s a massive need to fill. “Timing and the market dynamics between shippers and carriers make this an incredibly important problem to solve today,” says Tabachnik.
Ever since he was a kid, Tabachnik has seen how crucial truckers are in keeping the world running. He grew up watching his dad run an electronic equipment distribution business, where he started his own career after college. There Tabachnik oversaw the tedious manual process of auditing distributor invoices that needed to be paid. And then went on to automate much of the logistics process in his next role at a logistics company.
When he was 29 years old, he decided to become the CEO of a digital trucking brokerage company that connected shippers with truckers and carriers. He spent most of his time on the job trying to convince truckers to work for the platform. “One of the biggest challenges was building a compelling value proposition for truckers,” he says. “I learned that their biggest pain point by far was collecting and managing cash flows.”
Tabachnik started looking around for a solution to this cash flow problem, but came up empty-handed. At first, he thought developing a partnership with financial institutions would help. But he quickly learned that credit unions, banks, and fintechs weren’t willing to get involved, concerned about the complexity of payments processes in the industry and worried that truckers were unreliable borrowers. “They didn’t understand the market and they didn’t have the technology they needed to serve it,” he says of existing financial institutions. “That’s when I saw the need for a verticalized product focused on this market.”
Tabachnik approached Pedro and Guillermo Bosch, who he’d long known as the sons of his father’s biggest business competitor. The Bosch brothers had experience with lending and financing products, having previously built a fintech focused on lending. Combined with Tabachnik’s understanding of trucking and logistics, they could surely come up with a solution. Together, they participated in a business competition at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, where Tabachnik was completing an Executive MBA. Their idea: a digital platform that extends credit lines to truckers, allowing them to collect invoices when goods are delivered rather than waiting months to get paid. Winning the competition gave them the confidence to move forward on their idea and, with pre-seed funding secured by October 2021, they were able to start building the platform.
At the start of 2022, Solvento launched its first product, integrating its platform into existing logistics management systems and connecting to the Mexican tax government agency to run a proprietary credit underwriting model and expedite the payment process. When a carrier invoices a shipper through the platform, Solvento underwrites the invoice and advances the payment on the shipper’s behalf within minutes, cutting down the months-long lead time and giving them access to credit right away. Solvento also recently launched an invoice auditing software that has proven very valuable to its customers.
Working closely with the impact measurement company 60 Decibels, Solvento recently got a clearer picture of just how dire the situation has been for truckers. They found that 78 percent of clients had never had access to credit before using Solvento, and 77 percent had been able to increase their sales since using the platform. “We are highly motivated by this social and economic impact,” says Tabachnik.
The goal now, says Tabachnik, is to get the largest employers of truckers to integrate the platform so that Solvento can change the game on how truckers are paid and grow their businesses moving forward. “Carriers and truckers are the backbone of our economy. They are moving everything we eat, buy, and sell,” he says. “We want to level the playing field for them.”
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