Transfix chief operating officer Lily Shen has added president to her title. The digital freight marketplace announced Shen’s promotion on August 14.
Prior to joining New York City-based Transfix about two years ago, Shen spent nearly 20 years in Silicon Valley. She was the executive director of mobility and advanced technology for IDEO for a year. Before that, she was a venture partner with Canvas Ventures and a WeChat consultant through Tencent, each for a year. From 2011 to 2013, she was the chief marketing officer for Bloomspot. She also spent eight years with eBay.
Founded in 2013, Transfix uses its artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to optimize the process of matching freight carriers with shippers. Transfix said that during Shen’s tenure with the company, it has seen its business triple in size at a profit, all while accelerating its product development.
“The people are at the very top of my list because I fundamentally believe that no matter how good the idea is, if you don’t have the right people, nothing comes to fruition,” said Shen, pointing to “Drew’s deep domain expertise in the space as well as Jonathan, he’s incredibly gifted on the technical side.”
Shen said she was impressed with the entire team, which numbered about 150 when she joined the company.
“Everyone is just so maniacally focused on having as much impact as possible in driving performance,” she said. “There’s a relentless focus on really driving value for our shippers and carriers.”
Shen was not deterred by the fact that she had not worked in transportation or logistics.
“When I thought about this space more and more, it’s what makes the world move. It literally is,” she said. “At the same time, I feel there are so many challenges that companies and individuals have in the space. The opportunity to have that impact was huge. That was also something I was very drawn to.
“I didn’t have experience specifically in freight logistics, but what I brought to the table was the ability to build strong, high-performing teams in transformative businesses and industries,” Shen said, explaining that it’s about “the people that you bring on and how you really drive engagement and get people excited, driving the business and driving the future and making sure everyone clearly understands the impact that they’re having across every function. It doesn’t matter if it’s engineering or accounting or operations. Everyone on any given day can feel the impact that they’re driving.”
There was at least one surprise.
“Coming in, I fundamentally knew that there are inefficiencies. In pretty much every industry there are inefficiencies. I was surprised by the level of inefficiency. At the same time, I believe that’s what drives the opportunities in what we’re doing — to be able to provide transparency, better experiences and, quite frankly, bring value and peace of mind,” Shen said.
Shen herself has always been driven. She graduated from New York University with a dual major in finance and management and organizational behavior. She has completed executive education programs in strategy and organization as well as women’s leadership at Stanford University and Harvard Business School.
In Transfix’s announcement of Shen’s promotion to president, CEO McElroy said, “Lily is a tremendous strategist and operator with a natural knack for building strong teams. She’s been a catalyst in establishing Transfix as the go-to platform connecting shipper and carrier communities, while ensuring our business goals align with our overall mission to improve and evolve the industry as a whole.”
When asked what makes her a catalyst, Shen said, “I come with a lot of energy and passion, driving the team and building out the team in a way that’s catalyzing from within, first and foremost, and then also doing that on the front line. It’s really important to me, in building any business, that it’s customer-led and technology-enabled. What that means is going out and really making sure we’re having the right conversations with customers and carriers to make sure we’re driving the right value at every step along the way across the value chain.”
Shen said she has built teams “for early-stage startups and for global companies, both domestically and internationally. I think building teams and driving the right culture has been a key part to my success in those various roles.
“Being able to take vision and translating that to strategy, translating that to execution and translating that to results and bringing together teams across functions, across departments to accomplish that together, that’s something I’ve brought throughout my career.” She added, “And having the opportunity to do this across different industries has also made it incredibly valuable because I’ve been able to think about different problems very deeply. In each of those cases, I think there are parallels to bring to the opportunity here.”
Shen said her “mission is to really build the leading digital freight marketplace that’s going to transform the lives of shippers and carriers. I don’t think in terms of calendar deadlines. What’s important to me is that every day we continue to make progress. We constantly think about the little ways we can make progress and big strategic events we can make. And we’re all driving toward that as one team.”
Today that Transfix team numbers 200, with about one-third of them female.
“Even the C-suite is about 33 percent female,” Shen said. “We’ve been able to attract incredibly strong talent across the board. We think very deeply about ensuring that we have a diverse team as a company across the organization – within every function, within every level. We have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion. I’m a strong believer that diverse teams actually bring forth the best results.”
While Transfix doesn’t disclose the number of shippers and carriers it works with, Shen said the business is “absolutely growing and across segments as well. On the shipper side, we work very deeply with enterprise shippers. We’re applying a lot of our customer-driven technology to help solve their issues.
“From my perspective, we’re past the point of ‘there’s an app for that.’ There’s an app for everything these days,” she said. “We are changing the way products move. The way we approach it is not by disrupting the industry. Instead, the way we’re really approaching it is we’re reinventing and co-creating the evolution of this industry with our partners.”