How Togo’s Jean-Claude Homawoo created Lori, the ‘Uber for trucks’ inspired by a Harvard thesis

Abu Mubarik July 17, 2023
Jean-Claude Homawoo. Photo via Linkedin/Jean-Claude Homawoo

Meet Jean-Claude Homawoo; he is a Togolese entrepreneur and co-founder of Pan-African logistics firm Lori Systems. The company was started six years ago and prides itself on providing “cost-effective, reliable, and seamless cross-border transportation services,” Business Daily reported.

The idea for Lori Systems was first conceived when he was a student at Harvard University after he met his South African co-founder Josh Sandler. The idea was rooted in a thesis authored by Sandler looking at the impact of logistics on emerging market economies.

Among other things, they noticed that the truck transportation business in Africa was still in its nascent stage and those already in operation were not efficient. “So basically, that research showed that logistics, specifically transportation on trucks, actually has a really big impact on the growth and performance of an economy. Because of heightened trade, most of the cargo moves on trucks,” Homawoo was quoted by Business Daily.

“But most people don’t think much about trucks on a day-to-day basis. They drive next to them. They see trucks everywhere, but they don’t think about the impact they have,” he further added.

After graduating from Harvard, Homawoo’s South African mate Sandler did his internship with the central government in Kenya. Through the internship, Kenya became the first market he interacted with ahead of the start of Lori Systems. Besides choosing Kenya because of their pan-African spirit, the country’s population and development were also enticing for businessmen like Sandler and Homawoo.

“Kenya was just a perfect place to do it. It’s the size of the country. The level of development of the country, you know, is 50 million plus people. A lot of cargo moving, a central point across East Africa, a very busy port,” Homawoo explained.

He added: “Sandler and I both grew up in the US. At the tail end of it, we both wanted to be back on the continent. Our mindset is pan-African, so it’s not like if I’m from Togo I have to go back there because it’s less about my own country than it is about this.”

From a small beginning, Homawoo recalled moving around, literally looking for transporters, and building a contact list. He and Sandler managed to build a decent sizeable network of five transporters and 20 trucks before meeting with shippers. Although the shippers were reluctant to buy into their business proposal, their persistence eventually paid off.

“The process would then move to convincing the trucks to come do the job for us, and then hoping everything went well. And then getting paid, and then paying the transporter. So, you know, we started out very manual,” he noted.

Homawoo’s company has since harnessed technology in its activities to increase output and deliver cost-effective solutions to clients. Today, Lori Systems has earned the nickname “Uber for Trucks”. It has served 489 clients and made 70,000 deliveries using 18,000 trucks since it began operations. What is more, it has branches in Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria and provides transport services across 12 African countries.

Before Lori Systems, Homawoo was a Product Manager at Google Inc. where he became founder and leader of the company’s programmatic audio advertising business. The Togolese also worked at COOLS, GLG and iROKO.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 17, 2023


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