LLamasoft, an Ann Arbor- based supply chain design software business, is one of the fastest growing technology firms in North America, counting companies like Whirlpool, Land O’ Lakes, and Michael Kors among its more than 700 customers.
But the growth didn’t happen overnight.
Co-founders Don Hicks and Toby Brzoznowski launched LLamasoft in 1998 with an idea to help companies design and redesign their supply chains. Brzoznowski says the partners set out to be global leaders in their niche by taking advantage of their backgrounds in software development and marketing.
“From day one, unlike a lot of startups that have a very good idea but don’t know how to commercialize it, we started with
an understanding and background in the business—creating something unique and being able to sell it,” he says. “It allowed us to be focused and solve a real problem for some of the best-known companies in the world. When you can do that and have early successes with Dell or Unilever and have them endorse your product and attribute their success to your software, it allows you to have credibility, success, and growth.”
With each new customer, LLamasoft hired another employee, and by 2012, with 40 employees, the company was ready to raise
a Series A investment round. Invest Detroit’s First Step Fund was joined by MK Capital and Nike in contributing a total of $6 million. Then in 2015, LLamasoft secured an additional $50 million investment led by Goldman, Sachs & Co., which is believed to be the largest single round of venture financing by a non-medical company in state history.
But LLamasoft’s big breakthrough came last year when TPC Capital, a Silicon Valley investment company that’s made major investments in companies such as McAfee, Airbnb, and Uber, acquired a $300-million majority stake in the company. Invest Detroit’s Series-A contribution was paid back 12-fold, a return allowed the First Step Fund to invest in at least 10 other companies.
“I’m incredibly proud of the fact that we can get Invest Detroit that kind of return because I think the work they are doing is extremely important,” Brzoznowski says. “It’s helping dozens of entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground, and you never know who that next company is going to be that will impact other people’s lives. It’s paying it forward in that way; it’s great to know what we’ve done has an impact on other entrepreneur’s lives, as well.”
Today, LLamasoft, which doesn’t disclose its value, has nearly 500 employees around the world and is approaching $100 million in annual revenue.
And whether you realize it or not, LLamasoft’s work is having an impact on most of our daily lives. If you shop at stores like Walmart, Kroger, or Nordstrom’s; buy a car from General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, or Toyota; or take a bath or brush your teeth with products from Proctor & Gamble and Colgate; LLamasoft’s footprint is there.
“It’s extremely gratifying,” says Brzoznowski. “We help companies find the most efficient, cost- saving ways to do business. We help them figure out where their products should be sourced, shipped, manufactured and how to get them to market in the most cost-effective ways. They are saving hundreds of millions a year.”