Once upon a time in Silicon Valley: how an MBA student got on the wrong side of Apple
The story goes that Steve Jobs almost exploded with rage on 22 May 2008. And why? Tech giant Apple, which has always been obsessive about secrecy, was caught out by a small start-up called ImportGenius. This was great news for Ryan Petersen, who had founded the firm just a year earlier and was on the verge of completing his MBA at Columbia Business School. It meant that ImportGenius had achieved its breakthrough.
What happened? ImportGenius is a search engine for customs declarations and freight lists. Sifting through vast quantities of data, Ryan and his team spotted 188 mysterious shipping containers. They had been rented by Apple and contained ‘electric computers’, a product description never used by Apple before. A closer look at the data revealed that one load contained 544 crates with a total weight of around seven tonnes. At that time, Apple was not importing any goods labelled ‘desktop computers’, stocks of the iPhone 3 had been virtually exhausted across the US, and mobile phone provider AT&T had banned employees from taking holiday in June and July due to an ‘exciting summer promotional launch’.
The team at ImportGenius quickly put two and two together, realising that the mystery freight had to be the new iPhone 3G. They were right: Jobs announced the device at the Moscone Center on 9 June 2008 (by the way, most of the Apple engineers in attendance were allegedly drunk, but that is a different story). The discovery brought ImportGenius many new customers, fresh capital and recognition.
In fact, ImportGenius was only Petersen’s first successful start-up. He is also CEO and co-founder of Flexport, the ‘unsexiest trillion-dollar start-up’.
Logistics supply chains are going digital and thus becoming more efficient