In this article, I go over my conversation with Tim Higham, the CEO & Founder of AscendTMS.
Can you give us a glimpse of where you are from and your professional career?
“I sometimes joke that I’m from eastern Alabama,” Tim said. “I’m from the UK. I came here 33 years ago.”Tim arrived in America when he was twenty-one. He settled in South Carolina and worked his way down towards Disneyworld. Since moving down to the Sunshine State, he has not left.
Tim was just 30 when he sold his first company in April 1998. “A publicly-traded company bought us called HomeCom,” he said. To learn more about the company that Tim sold in 1998, head to YouTube or Spotify.
After Tim sold his first company, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, with the company that had acquired his. He was 30; he did not like Atlanta and moved back to Florida. “I did some consulting work. I kept myself busy,” he said. He was consulting for companies that were in online banking and online insurance. “I didn’t even know how many wheels were on an 18-wheeler.”
Around this time, Tim’s ex-wife, who owned a nursery in Florida, needed help moving loads across the Southeast. Tim, a programmer at heart, created a simple TMS to execute multi-stop pickups and organize data. After landing a few significant customers and contracts (such as the entire national plant shipping for Home Depot), they sold to private equity. When I asked how much he sold the companies for, Tim said: “It was definitely enough-with my prior exit-to never work again.”
After selling the brokerage, Tim immediately transitioned to founding AscendTMS. He took two of the main guys from his former brokerage. Tim also invested half a million dollars and moved into an 800-square-foot office. “Those half-a-million dollars that we put into the business never went below 274 thousand dollars,” he said. “We spent eight months building the version of Ascend seen today.”
“Ascend TMS is probably my last rodeo, if I’m honest,” Tim said. “I enjoy what I do” They have had offers to buy them. Not having taken any VC (venture capital) money, they are highly profitable. “I do not want to say too much, but it is in the millions of dollars a year,” he said. “That is in profit, not in revenue. I don’t know why I would want to sell.”
- One new account every hour
- Every day, 24 hours a day.
- 365 days a year.
- As of January 2022, they have over 42,195 accounts registered.
For Ascend, the second-largest market is Canada, followed by Mexico. “We have paying customers from Bolivia and several countries in Africa,” Tim said. “Our software supports 168 countries, weights, measures, and currencies.”
What made you want to start the free TMS?
“I’m the kind of person who tends to get bored quickly,” he said. “I knew the industry was on the cusp of massive change.” 97% of all trucking companies are under 20 trucks. 98% of all freight brokers are under 20 million in revenue. “There are not many billion-dollar brokerages,” Tim said. “Everybody that builds software goes after the billion-dollar guys.”
Ascend realized that the opportunity was with the small guy. “We went after the marketplace that was so undeserved,” he said. “When we opened the lid to our product, people started to come in. They loved it.” Their customer acquisition cost is low because they harness the power of word-of-mouth.
How do you see the industry changing in the next five years?
Tim acknowledges that many start-ups are trying to keep freight efficient. “The biggest problem that I see most of them has,” he said. “They’re building solutions for tomorrow but not solving today’s problems.” He believes companies should develop solutions that work in today’s messy, paper and phone-call intensive world of freight. “They need to figure out how to solve today’s problems to help bridge people into the future.”
What kind of advice do you give to start-ups?
“If somebody calls me up with an honest question and a need,” Tim said. “I will tell them my honest opinion.” He says many start-ups who call him are confused about things like venture capital. “They think they are meant to go get venture capital money,” he said. Tim’s advice is quite simple. He says you should first start slowly. “Make a small profit from small revenues, you grow it, and you own it,” Remember: every time you take money from VC firms, your equity amount goes down.
What would be your advice to a twenty-year-old college graduate?
“Two things really,” Tim said:
- Do not mistake your exuberance for knowledge
- If you ever make $5 million in net worth, do not risk that 5 million for $50 million in net worth.
Unlike many CEOs, Tim responds to messages on LinkedIn. If you need help or advice, reach out to Tim Higham, and you will get a response.
If you want to try out AscendTMS, making an account is effortless and takes only 20 seconds. All you need to do is go to TheFreeTMS.com. For three months free of the Premium version, enter code: RA-FreightCaviar!.