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New, exciting tech making its way in to boring, old industries. And I mean boring, old industries.

There's an unbelievable amount of backwards business process that's still out there. Unless you've experienced it first hand, I really don't think you can fully appreciate how manual the "business world" still is.

For the past year I've been working with an intermodal trucking company building an app for owner-operator truck drivers so they can accept/reject deliveries, turn in paperwork, and update delivery statuses via a mobile app. If that sounds dead simple, it's because it is. But the change it brings is amazing.

While deploying the app I'd often ask when so-and-so truck driver came in to the office. The answer was usually something like "every day at 5:00pm to drop off his paperwork". A week after they start using the app, the answer suddenly turns in to "Oh, he never comes in to the office. You'll have to call his cell."

Dispatchers that were tearing their hair out trying to get updates from their drivers so they can in turn update their customers now feel like they can manage double the trucks. They're asking if they can get a similar app on their phone so they can manage their drivers on the go. Managers are asking when they'll be able to ditch the office space they're renting and let everyone work from home.

When I tell people "It's like Uber for intermodal trucking", nobody cares. If they pretend to care, I have to explain what intermodal trucking is in the first place -- then they stop pretending. It doesn't sound "sexy". It's a boring industry.

I think there's a lot of boring industry out there that hasn't fully embraced technology, and I think when it finally does we'll see a cultural change in the way we view work.




I'm interning at a law firm, two days ago I spent 4+ hours searching through public announcements on a government website. Me and a my colleague searched through the announcements of 500+ companies in the last 3 years. We ctrl+f'ed certain words, if they were present we noted the decision date, it was that simple. But the government website had a flashy UI with Ajax that required multiple clicks to get a list of announcements for a single year.

If the government had provided an API, the same task could be accomplished in a matter of minutes.

Likewise, most law offices have FileStore's or DMS's (Document Management System). These technologies are old and slow. If they used something like Algolia or Apache Lucene on a beefy server, the productivity would increase multiple-folds.

Another thing I want to mention is automated translation software. Most contracts we write are in dual languages. People usually slightly modify terms from earlier contracts. If there were a software that could identify identical/similar blocks and find their translation, the productivity increase would be substantial.

I wonder why these firms do not invest in IT. Being a corporate lawyer in 21st century is not that far away from being a coder. You primarily work with your computer, only instead of writing computer code, you write rules in natural languages. Programmers have IDEs, Lawyers still use MS Office products with lots of add-ons.


> But the government website had a flashy UI with Ajax that required multiple clicks to get a list of announcements for a single year.

That's, unfortunately, the counterproductive effect of current tech fads - UX designed around "engagement" (i.e. sucking money or attention out of people) and not around effectiveness. I believe it's important for responsible engineers to work to counter that thread.


I remember someone posted a comment regarding why Lawyer doesnt want to improve productivity before in HN. It's because lawyer usually charge client per hour, the more hour the lawyer spend on work the more he/she get paid, there's a negative incentive on reducing work hours this way.


Lawyers bill by the hour, that's right. However there is almost always a race against time. You can always do the work slower/write more hours. But you can't speed up the work, if you don't have the tools.

In large offices, IMHO people get billed with their capacity to pay. It has not much to do with the hours lawyers put in. If the client has the money, lawyers put in more hours. Every piece of paper lawyers print gets billed to you. Every cab fare, every x and y, you imagine. On top of all this lawyers need to bill hours so they don't get fired. But I'd rather bill hours doing serious research than manual labor.


You've got a lot of competition. Transflo is the 800 pound gorilla in this space. But there are quite a few small providers working very hard to get into it.

And integration is the challenge. Integration into sometimes archaic dispatch systems . TMW Innovative is still an RPG green-screen system on IBM I Power systems and they have thousands of customers. They have a "web" version that is just a green screen scraper, which isn't bad, but is is slow.

All that to say this industry is ripe for innovation, especially for small carriers that have to implement elogs by December. It's an interesting year in trucking.


this. A company in my town has an RFID (active and passive) material tracking system for large construction projects that does some pretty cool stuff. Imagine having a $10b construction site, thousands of parts, materials, and pieces of equipment laying around in a stock yard, and being able to know where every single one is, know if someone takes the wrong part out of the yard, know if someone takes a part to an area of the jobsite it doesn't need to be in, etc... Snowfall covered your entire stock yard? no problem, still works.


Construction management is another similar field. People routinely have secretaries who print people's emails so they can write responses, or print drawings, Mark them up, then scan them back in. A YC startup net30.io is working on construction payment tracking.


This. There are so many "boring" companies out there that could become so much more competitive if they brought in a couple of full-stack devs to write a basic domain-specific CRUD monolith running on AWS hooked up to a basic mobile app.


I built exactly the same system just over 13 years ago. I'd love to be doing that now as the technology wasn't really there back then. GPRS and windows mobile was all there was.

You're right. It sounds boring but it was great fun!


We're building a similar at product at https://loaddocs.co and hiring, if you are interested.


Thanks for the info. I'm working on a hardware startup at the moment so I need to concentrate on that first :)


I work in industrial data collection and communications. I'd caution that if you're going to go this route (introducing tech where there wasn't any), you need to focus on the low hanging fruit and solve actual pain points. I see a lot of companies pushing data collection without a use for the data or an understanding of the real problems companies need to solve. Sounds like the parent avoided these pitfalls.


My whole business is based on targeting older businesses. We've done some really simple CRUD apps with users for each employee for quite great margins. So much work to be done - just gotta meet enough businesses.


This is so true. I have been trying to get into this space but leads are so hard to come by.


Can I ask what company you work for? Sounds like it's interesting work that's actually augmenting people's workflow to be both faster and easier. Seems like it's satisfying work.


What's the app?


But how do you find jobs like that?


Tldr; This is what we attend / do to get clients that's not into tech already:

- lots of general network events where only C-level staff attend (often paid networks)

- side by side with consultants and business developers that haven't got technical staff

- get references from companies we've befriended by giving them leads before

You need to find a way into non-technical companies. We find them by going to network meetings with companies not in the IT sector. I have a large network of tech companies, but more non-tech companies. Sometimes a CEO for a marketing firm have a good lead they want in the long term, and then he brings in us to deliver something else for their business, such as an internal app for tracking deliveries. His potential client gets hyped up and I suggest potential marketing angles of the app and in doing so direct the business back to him. Other times I have a few drinks with CEOs from different companies at network events, they get to know me on a more personal level, and then pass me / us as a reference when they hear about jobs. We also go side by side of business developers, letting them add "digitalization" as a part of their brand.




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