December 10, 2022

With e-commerce booming, consumers increasingly want to know, “Where’s my order?” Three-year-old package tracking firm Route aims to answer that question in real time with its AI-driven software. That’s a growing and increasingly valuable business: Route cofounder and CEO Evan Walker tells Forbes that the startup is now worth $1.25 billion, following a $200 million fundraise.

The unicorn valuation comes just three months after Lehi, Utah-based Route appeared on Forbes’ Next Billion-Dollar Startups list, one of 25 companies that we believed most likely to pass the $1 billion mark. Route’s revenue more than doubled last year, to an estimated $80 million, from $34 million in 2020. In addition to product tracking, Route also helps merchants market additional products to consumers who’ve already made purchases and offers built-in shipping insurance.

“It’s been wild,” Walker says in a video call from his office in Santa Monica, California. “We’re in the position of owning the space right now, and the space is getting incredibly hot.”

“Delivery is evolving and some of it sounds very science fiction-y. There’s no reason anything should be lost anymore.”

Walker, 41, started his first e-commerce business at age 14, when he built a website to sell video games out of his bedroom, borrowing $2,000 from his dad to get it up and running. “I sold a few video games and got frustrated that I wasn’t doing more. Then I got a phone call for a $500,000 order of productivity software. The company instantly took off,” he recalls. Five years later, he sold the firm, called Netsoft, at age 19, for more than $10 million. “I was always that kid,” he says. “I don’t know why I was wired that way. It wasn’t about the money—it was about being the inventor.”

He came up with the idea for Route seven years ago while negotiating a shipping option for an antique trunk that he’d purchased from a small shop in Florence. The shop owner told him it was too fragile to ship overseas, and anyway, it might get lost. A collector of antiquities and artifacts, Walker soon realized that shipping, tracking and insurance were good business prospects. He cofounded Route three years ago with Mike Moreno to help small shops compete in an increasingly global marketplace. 

“Amazon wins because everything is centralized, but no one wants to sell on Amazon anymore,” Walker says. “Small merchants don’t have those same tools, and even big merchants don’t have the tools.”

Since its founding, Route has signed up more than 11,000 merchants, most of them small businesses, and tracked more than 175 million packages for shoppers. Route collects transaction fees from merchants each time a customer buys a product marketed through its software, and it gets revenue from insurance. The visual tracking itself is free.

The latest funding round was led by a London-based investment firm that Walker declines to name, citing a strict nondisclosure agreement. Other investors in the round, which brings the company’s total funding to $291 million, include Eldridge, Madrona Venture Group, Riot Ventures, FJ Labs and Jaws Capital. Walker says that he personally remains “by far the biggest majority stockholder.”

With the new funding, Route intends to develop new features for its technology, such as increased personalization. To do so, Route, which has a workforce of some 450 people split between suburban Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, plans to hire more engineers to build out new products. While early hires came from top Utah enterprise tech companies, like Qualtrix, Walker now hopes to bring on more consumer-focused tech talent on the West Coast, where the market is highly competitive.

“Delivery is evolving and some of it sounds very science fiction-y. It is delivery by drone and by autonomous driver,” Walker says. “I think transparency is a very big thing. There’s no reason anything should be lost anymore.”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyfeldman/2022/01/21/e-commerce-tracking-firm-route-hits-125-billion-valuation-as-online-sales-explode/