Scaling to Success with GroundCloud Founder David Leland


Scaling a successful startup can be a daunting journey filled with challenges and uncertainties. That’s likely why only 22% of new businesses launched in the past ten years have successfully scaled. But sometimes the key to startup scaling is having the courage to take a chance.

“Go for the moon. So long as that moon shot doesn’t kill you if you miss it,” says GroundCloud Founder David Leland. “Don’t ever count yourself out because you’re small.”

GroundCloud is a cloud-based provider of final-mile carrier solutions and road safety compliance tools, founded in 2016. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the startup didn’t fit the traditional Silicon Valley mold. But thanks to a thoughtfully acquired and nurtured team and a commitment to customer service, the company was acquired in February for $138 million.

“I’m a product of the Midwest and the tech space has always been very traditionally a Silicon Valley thing. You can’t let that mindset limit you,” David says. “A lot of entrepreneurs, the ones that succeed, it’s because they keep going and doing whatever it takes.”

David will share his startup journey at fnSummit 2023, Founders Network’s annual conference. The three-day event gives startup founders the opportunity to learn from other tech founders in the startup ecosystem, build deep relationships with investors, and uncover solutions to the challenges they’re facing. The annual event provides the perfect setting for off the record discussion, reflection, and networking.

In his fnSummit 2023 keynote, David will share his tips for startup scaling and how he found the right opportunities and people to scale to success.

A product that sells itself

GroundCloud stands at the forefront of final-mile logistics automation, seamlessly integrating operations, safety, and compliance within a unified platform. Final-mile carriers use the platform to seamlessly receive customer delivery orders, strategically plan and execute routes in alignment with those orders, oversee driver safety and performance through training and monitoring, efficiently manage assets and resources, and thoroughly analyze the operational effectiveness of their enterprises. What sets GroundCloud apart is its incorporation of video telematics, offering precise detection and verification of driving events, coupled with proactive coaching solutions meticulously designed to enhance overall safety standards.

“As an engineer, I always knew that you could build the best tech platform ever, but if people can’t use it successfully, it’s worthless. With GroundCloud we were able to develop a product that earned an incredible reputation with our customers. One way to scale is that if you satisfy your customers to such a degree, you don’t need to invest a lot in marketing and sales. Your customers will do the best selling for you.”

Prioritizing customer service

David attributes GroundCloud’s success not only to their product, but also to how they’ve handled customer service. In the logistics industry every second counts. However, some vendors in the logistics sector aren’t always quick to respond to customer needs, causing costly delays and setbacks. David saw this as an opportunity to set his company apart. 

“We really were able to win the hearts and minds and loyalties of our customers with customer service,” David says. “If someone has a problem with GroundCloud, they know that we’re going to answer the phone immediately and we’re going to be responsive to getting the problem solved. You don’t have to be perfect, but if you’re responsive and you can prove to your customers that you care, that’s the thing that’s going to win their hearts and get them telling others, ‘you should check these people out.’”

Commitment to team

When looking back at what enabled GroundCloud to scale successfully, David is quick to point to the team he had around him. According to one report, 23% of startups fail because of an inadequate team.

David says he looked for people he could learn from who would fill in his own skills gaps. In addition to hiring the right people, he says he implemented a competitive compensation and benefits program that ensured he was able to retain the top talent. 

“Make sure you’re hiring the right people that compliment you, that fill in the blanks for what skills you don’t have.  I come from an engineering background and I’m sort of the stereotypical visionary/dreamer/ eternal optimist. I recognized that my skills in terms of board governance and those details of contracts, I’m not good at that.  So, you know, I hired the perfect person that is that,” David says. “When you get the right team together that works well together and can solve problems together, you can basically point the team at almost any different market opportunity and have a much higher likelihood of success.”

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