|Happy Birthday Trella #CelebrateTheWins|
Moving Economies Forward — Omar Hagrass: Feb 2022
It’s Christmas 2018, but the mood is not celebratory for me. We’ve just raised a lot of money with just a pitch deck. Probably the first in the region, and definitely the first in Egypt. Expectations are high, and stress is compounding. We need to deliver.
I summon the team and tell them the clock is now ticking. Our first milestone: Hit USD1 Million in <year. We needed to work as a team: there were so many tasks, very few hands—supply, demand, Investor Relations, lawyers, Product, Shipper Operations, everything. A 120-hours of work per week seemed very natural. It was stressful.
It was hard to unlock demand. Signing shippers with Zero brand recognition, a dysfunctional product, and a naive team, thinking they will transform the industry, once deemed irrevocably damaged, is no easy feat. Muffadal gave us our first big shipment, and Garem was responsible for getting the job done. I had to sign a personal guarantee for the customer to allocate demand for Trella. No one trusted us.
We knew about the launch a month in advance, and G was making frequent trips to Damietta to lock in carriers in preparation. I knew carriers at first wouldn’t trust us, but I’ve put some pressure to make sure we can have any guarantee. Garem, in his deep voice, tells me he’s ready for the big day. Our official launch is a few days away, and we’re well prepared: we’ve locked in supply (supposedly), have the trackers in place, the product is up and running, we’re good to go. Off he goes to Damietta.
I’ve set up a War Room in anticipation of the launch and followed up with the team by the minute. On February 10th 2018, we were expected to load thirty trucks. We had Zero trucks available. Crash and burn. This was the first time we understood that this industry would not be pleasant to operate. I drove to Damietta, and Pierre tagged along. It was about to get fun. I contacted every single person I know who worked in logistics. I asked Garem to withdraw piles of cash and pay money upfront. Ahmed Reda got everyone on his contact list to meet us in Damietta; Hesham Hamouda slept in the dock for a couple of days; Pierre started onboarding carriers. It was #allhandsondeck.
The next day, February 11th 2019, was a huge success. We loaded 30+ trucks, and the customer was happy. We managed to get things back in place, and the trucks started rolling. Where there is demand, there are trucks. We learned it the hard way. We began giving carriers piles of cash to get their trucks to work with us. Other brokers in the market were not happy. They were churning carriers to us. The day went smoothly, just that by the time we were leaving the port, we got a phone call: A carrier’s truck flipped in the middle of the highway, and the goods were damaged. Oh, Lord.
Day three. We’ve split ourselves into two teams: a team to figure out the situation with the police and the shipper, and a team to continue the supply of trucks. We’ve gained momentum, and we wanted to keep it up. We loaded 50+ trucks that day, and we’re the number one broker that day. The shipper was happy. I’m leaving the port to take a few calls from a coffee shop, and I receive a call: four of our trucks have been subject to theft, and we are now discussing almost an EGP1Million Pound in penalties. Here we go again.
By the fourth day, I went to jail. Garem gave me the wrong ID to get into the port, and the police thought I was a fraud. I spent eight hours detained and trying to explain to the police the situation. My phone died, I could not contact people for support–me and Garem were conversing from a tiny window. I found a way and managed to get myself out of this. There was no time to dwell on the past, and I wanted to keep the momentum. Operations were running smoothly. I gathered the team for a quick handover and aligning on the responsibilities, and drove back to Cairo to sign our biggest investor back then, ExxonMobil.
Our first official launch week could not have gone any more wrong. We’ve had trucks flipping (everyday), we’ve had multiple theft attempts (Bye-bye personal guarantee), we’ve had severe supply shortages, I went to jail, and we’ve lost a lot of money subsiding the loads. But, we won. We won our customers; we built an excellent carrier base; we learnt.
Looking back on this, I believe the first launch week exemplifies the nature of our business and most definitely shows the rollercoaster of emotions you ride when trying to build. If I want to be more philosophical about it, this is life.
If anything I have learned from the ups and downs of the first few months, it was that it would pass. Everything will pass. Anytime we’ve hit a challenge, it’s only upwards from here. Nothing comes easy. People learn a lot more from their downs than their wins. The first week of our operations is by far the most stressful but also my favourite week since we’ve launched this company. It paved the way. It helped me understand, too early, that this journey will be challenging, but if we persevere, we will win.
As we look ahead at our 4th year, this year will be Big for us on so many levels. We will look back at it as our best year: it will set the stage for us to fulfill our mission and more. I knew building a startup was going to be hard. But nothing close to what I’ve experienced and seen. I also know that this team is destined to do big things way beyond Trella. Trella is the playfield we will all learn to develop and become the best version of ourselves, all while making peoples’ lives better. I will remind you that the ups and downs are part of the journey. I will remind you to have fun. I will remind you we will win.
#allhandsondeck #obsessoverourcommunities #ideasoverhierarchy #betterdonethanperfect #failbydesign #nevergiveup #celebratethewins
Name: Taymour Elkady, Head of Marketplace, EGY.
Favorite Moment: At some point we were exploring different shipper personas, one of which was a shipper with hourly loads, the shipper was very accurate in that sense, On-time-performance was key. To mitigate the risks we took all our precautions, we rented an apartment for our carriers next to the facility, we got each carrier a smartphone and a charger, and we hired a representative for that specific shipper. In our heads there is nothing that can go wrong. The launch went great. We had an amazing first day, the next day we had 6AM loads to fulfill. At 5:30AM we couldn’t reach the carriers, up until 6:30AM, we then went to the apartment to find the carriers sleeping in their trucks, leaving the apartment. After confronting the carriers we were told that there were ghosts in the apartment and they needed a new apartment, we didn’t know how to react to something like that, how are we supposed to log in our financials, the lost deposit. But the supply team alongside the finance team worked on finding another apartment in less than 12 hours. This is a great example on how we adapt to the cultures around us, as well as being customer obsessed.
Favorite Value and Why: I wrote a blog and a LinkedIn post about my admiration on how Trella “Obsesses over its community”, and it is one of my favorite values, but now that I had to choose which one of the values I favor the most, it would be #FailByDesign. Just last week we had a management class that mentioned psychological safety and how important it is in a work environment, which basically means feeling safe to speak without being humiliated. This specific value encourages people not only to speak but to experiment with confidence, which gives room for more innovations. The best way to learn is to try.
Name: Omar Wahdan, General Manager, KSA (Interim).
Favourite Moment: With being in Trella for 2+ years, and two years in a fast-paced environment like Trella is actually six (I calculated it), there are a lot of moments to choose from. The first one that comes to mind, was when our business in Saudi Arabia surpassed Egypt, knowing that Saudi was launched 1 year after Egypt. Also, what made it extra special was that we’ve achieved such incredible success in Saudi with relatively limited headcount and Product, at the time, focusing on other markets/priorities.
Favourite Value and Why: #IdeasOverHierarchy – This is always the way. Strategy and focus should never be only dictated from function leads or top management. Individual contributors and executors on the ground are in the front row; which makes their feedback super valuable and the one moving the needle at the end of the day, as opposed to planning just based on metrics from a bird eye’s view.
Name: Nataly Wadie, Test Automation, EGY.
Favorite Moment: Back when we were at the Maadi Office when we used to stay late figuring out how to handle some scenario or fix a bug and we would collaborate together in the tech room and have Trellans joining the discussions and mapping our thoughts out on the whiteboard in the room.
Favorite Value and Why: #FailByDesign — because this is how we learn; we design and implement features, try them out with our stakeholders, and iterate on the failures till we reach the ultimate satisfying experience.
Name: Muhammad Tarek, Frontend Engineer.
Favorite Moment: Back in late 2019, when we were just 6 engineers, we were just starting planning to launch in Saudi. The late nights and the team’s spirit back then was the foundation for what we have now.
Favorite Value and Why: #AllHandsOnDeck – Building a good product requires ownership. When the culture encourages its people to own the product, everyone starts sharing their ideas, pushing to help build a better product as it’s their own
Name: Mohammad Khusroo, City Lead – Jeddah, KSA.
Favorite Moment: We got our first few loads post our KSA launch in Jan’20 and did 70+ loads in less than 10 days. It was kind of a perfect launch. Then came the drought !
For about a month, we did not get a single load despite our best efforts. Garem, Peter, me and Shuja kept hitting the ground – customer after customer without any luck for too long. Feb was about to close on a bleak note with a strutting launch.
Out of nowhere, we closed this small customer – a custom clearance agent. We did 58 loads in 4 days to close Feb on a high note. Rest, as they say, is history!!
Favorite Value and Why: #NeverGiveUp – for the sheer warrior spirit it pumps into me when the going gets tough. Startup is a journey with lots of ups and downs and I believe only with the NeverGiveUp approach we can disrupt the extremely complex logistics space.
Name: Arsalan, Fulfillment Lead, PAK.
Favorite Moment: The Retreat 2021 – Back in Feb 2021 we planned a Retreat at Ormara beach but due to some confusion in dates we needed to make last minute changes. All the Re arrangements were made within an hour and the whole team was working together to make this retreat successful. This shows what this team is capable of. And yes we Enjoyed A Lot 🙂
Favorite Value and Why: #NeverGiveUp – True understanding comes from experience. Shout out to Trella who has given me the opportunity to learn many new things and gain a lot of experience. One of the most important things that Trella taught me was to focus on our strategies and goals and don’t be afraid of the things that competition is doing. The knowledge surely will be useful for me to help build my future career and to reach my goals.
Name: Yehia ElKady, Product Manager.
Favorite Moment: It is almost impossible to pinpoint my favorite moment, but generally in the early days when we used to have our All-Hands in the small Maadi Office, we were around 30 people crammed in a room around a projector, and I remember being amazed by the content being shared and the speed of progression every week. I had never seen anything like it, and I knew this was the right place for me.
Favorite Value and Why: #IdeasOverHierarchy — It is the most Value that I see around me all the time. Everyone is heard, and everyone has a say in the direction of the company. Working with so many people of different ages and backgrounds, what excites me most is seeing each and every person flourish as they become comfortable sharing their ideas.
Name: Hedy Nassar, Internal Communications, Employer Branding, Employee Engagement.
Favorite Moment: On my first day at Trella I literally couldn’t find a chair to sit at, the office was extremely small to an extent that I had to steal Tika and Bassel’s table while they were on ground to acquire carriers. I had to run to the pizza hut’s bathroom because obviously bathrooms sucked – no need to explain further. As much as all of this sounds like a mess, out of this mess we were building bricks of what we now call Trella’s mission, vision, and values. These messy days created org charts, white papers, trackers, endless learnings, laughter, and cherished memories. It’s impossible to pinpoint a favourite memory at Trella, but an ongoing favourite and a very unique detail would always be its people. The amount of help everyone provides, their spirit, their added value that everyone brings on a daily basis, the amount of effort and hustling, is literally insane. As I always say in every new hires onboarding session “Trellans will always be Trella’s most valued asset!”.
Favorite Value and Why: #CelebrateTheWins🎉 — One one end, it sounds all fun and cheerful, but on another end it holds deeper meanings. It says a lot about how much we value recognizing our Trellans, pausing and appreciating. How we have something to look forward to at the end of the tunnel, where we know we’ll be rewarded for all the endless efforts. I believe that without this necessary pause, we’d lose a lot of the motivation and the push to keep moving forward and to keep moving economies forward.
Name: Muhamad Adeel, Launch specialist.
Favorite Moment: Back in June 2021 I was with Shehroz at Nestle factory sorting the vehicle clearance issue 200km away from Lahore at 8’ o’clock at night. I got a call to meet the finance manager of one of our customers the next day at 9 a.m in Karachi.
Umer and I prepared our meeting stance, documents and data overnight for the meeting and Umer picked me up on his bike from the airport. Two individuals who had not slept for 30 hours reached the customer to recover an amount more than 24 million on a very old rusty bike of Umer which broke down twice while reaching the customer.
After a day-long conversation and negotiation we left their office at 8 o’clock at night and woke up on Saturday morning to an email which insured partial immediate payment and payment plan for the rest.
Favorite Value and Why: #AllHandsOnDeck. My thought process goes to say that everyone is an all-rounder and when we all come together to solve a problem there is nothing stopping us.
Name: George Samy, Android Engineer.
Favorite Moment: I remember my first month at Trella, when our day started at 9:00 PM, as both me and Pierre still had our full time job. We were technically the engineering team working on backend, frontend, design and release of all features. All of this out of Pierre’s living room we used to sleep inIt was all an experiment for me or an adventure until one day we announced our pre-seed fund. that’s when we were able to buy our first laptops as my previous laptop took about an hour to run Trella apps.
Favorite Value and Why: #BetterDoneThanPerfect – Better done than perfect is my favorite quote Trella believe in and they made me believe in too fully hearted! How encouraging if you think about it !Every small step is valuable at Trella going miles start by taking the very first small step (baby steps) to reach the happy end The best thing at Trella that all trials from all employees appreciated.
Name: Muhammad Essam / Frontend Engineer.
Favorite Moment: Back in March 2019 when I start working in Trella, and we were only 4 engineers in the team and handling everything and the excitement to do better every day and now when I see Trella and what we have accomplished I am very happy that I am a part of that and that we still have more to come.
Favorite Value and Why: #AllHandsOnDeck – ownership and making everyone feel that they are a part of this company will make us reach our goals and become a great company together.
Name: Arsheel Raja, Launch Specialist, UAE.
Favorite Moment: I have 2 favorite memories, first was my visit to the Greek Campus where I met everyone in Trella before joining it officially. I went to Cairo for a work trip related to my previous organization but I skipped one day and went to meet Boody, Mahi, Reham, Mazny and all the amazing people. It is memorable because by the end of the day, I knew this was the place I wanted to work in and these were the people I wanted to spend more time with. Then my new friends at Trella took me to El Prince and I loved the food. How can you forget a beautiful country that’s very similar to yours and the company of some really nice humans along with delicious food.
My second favorite memory is a personal one, building slack bots for UAE for redirecting all Load Creation, Load Assignment, Load Requests notifications from KSA Channels to our. It eased the life of my team and I felt really proud of it because it was a free solution.
Favorite Value and Why: #CelebrateTheWins is my mantra and I try to remind my team every once in a while about the highest loads we did in a day or the highest collections we made in a week or the highest qualifications/app adoption numbers we achieved in a month – when we look at things on a daily basis, we might lose our ability to look at the accomplishment amidst all the firefighting and I and my team are also victims of that, but that’s when I jump in, ask the team to breathe, take a step back and look at things from a macro view – change the tracker’s view from daily to monthly numbers and see how far you have come and what have we marveled at.
Name: Armia Talaat, Frontend Engineer.
Favorite Moment: Early 2019, taking the decision to leave everything behind and joining Trella, waking up the next day earlier than usual with the fear of the unknown but with a rush of excitement, taking a risk and committing to it, just believing in the idea and the team, with the mentality of having a huge impact and taking the world by surprise, working every day and racing to deliver and building the foundation of what and who we are today, makes me happy and fortunate to be a part of this journey.
Favorite Value and Why: #FailByDesign Starting a new journey has ups and downs for sure and definitely ours passed by many moments when we felt down, burned out, and other times when we felt on cloud nine, by failing, trying again, and getting up made us who we are and where we are today.
Name: Omar El Sheikh, Head of Finance.
Favorite Moment: Trella appealed to me as a challenge and adventure. I don’t want to miss out on this journey and potential success story. I had faith in the purpose and mission (and founders that I met). At the same time, big risk, tough timing, both personally and professionally. I’m IN – I’ve decided to join, this was 35 months ago (June 2019). When I started, I found out that the entire company was run on a single sheet “called MainSheet – some people can relate”, and one of our friends in Trella “people who can relate, know him for sure :)” had spent roughly half of the pre-seed funds in operations and and we could only trace (reconcile) a small portion (at the end, after two weeks of sleepless nights, we traced it together, and became very very good friends). Fast forward to today, we are operating in four countries (with plans to double in less than a year) and handling 15,000 loads per month (aiming to hit 50k a month in less than a year from now). That’s crazy ha; it can’t be done without great people, a great team, and a great culture. I’m grateful to be part of this.
Favorite Value and Why: #AllHandsOnDeck Happiness and Success can be traced back to a positive and healthy culture in which people are pushing together towards a meaningful purpose or vision.
#NeverGiveUp The reality is that we will all face challenges and fail at some points – that’s life, people who win are those who push themselves to get back in the saddle again and again. “Giving up is just a step away from success”.
Name: Amr Tarek, Cross Borders Ops Lead.
Favorite Moment: It’s almost impossible to pinpoint one favourite moment having been a part of this incredible team since Trella’s inception. I recall the MoM growth rates were crazy. We hit 1000 complete loads in just four months which was madness, and having to maintain this growth and stepping up the pace more and more was beyond madness. But deep inside I feel proud to be a part of this momentum and this team doing whatever it takes to get there. We went from “What is Trella and do you even have an office” to having 21k carriers across Egypt, 41k carriers across 4 launched markets and now serving 500+ shippers. This is a story I am proud to tell so BUCKLE UP because believe me this story is far from over.
Favorite Value and Why: #NeverGiveUp Going through our third year, facing challenges and obstacles is the norm, with determination and grit the team is able to stay on top of the game and bash through the challenges along the way. It’s an instinct that Trellans have, we just NEVER GIVE UP!!
Name: Tehrim Malik, Growth | Project Management.
Favorite Moment: Trella has been a workplace that tends to give you plenty of moments to cherish, but if i had to pick 1, it would be the 1st load of Trella Pakistan. HANDS DOWN! Although it has been 1.5+ years, the memory in my mind is so vividly imprinted as if it happened yesterday. Weeks & weeks of working from a meeting room (which btw was so tiny it could only fit 2 people at max), building shipper lists, chasing after the VERY WRONG industries ( 🤫!!), going to countless shipper meetings, and making blunders in my own sales pitch (Again! 🤫 ), we finally landed our 1st load. The moment it materialized, I knew I was in for something very exciting, and of course empowering. Now that I reflect back on that day, and see Pakistan doing 1000+ loads per month, it gives me goosebumps. Its like seeing my baby grow up 🧡
Favorite Value and Why: #CelebrateTheWins: It’s very easy for us to put ourselves down for small mistakes and failures. What about our small wins? Well the irony of this is that, although we easily feel negative about failing, we almost never celebrate our wins, and this is where the magic lies. I believe, recognizing both the large and smaller accomplishments encourages individuals to continue to strive and reminds them that they are making a positive difference.
Name: Saim Chaudhary, Country Launcher.
Favorite Moment: I always think back to my excitement while taking a flight to Jeddah in my first week as part of the company. I believed that I was joining a very exciting startup and a team full of brilliant minds. And that first moment set the bar for me. I felt the same excitement in the tiny office space that I shared with Tehrim while making shipper calls all day pre-launch, the same rush when Manzar took me to my first trip to Mauripur Supply Hub, and when we hit our first 10, 100, and 1000 loads. Let’s keep the moments coming!
Favorite Value and Why: #NeverGiveUp We operate in a complex industry, and in the toughest markets for this particular industry. It takes a lot of mindful perseverance to understand the market dynamics and user behavior. This also seems to be our foundational value, which pushes us to seek answers regardless of hierarchy, execute on our plans relentlessly, take care of each other, and most importantly, know that we are all in this together!
Name: Nadeem Bassem, Reporting and Control Specialist.
Favorite Moment: I don’t have a certain single favorite memory, but maybe the most memories i had were during the small office in Maadi I joined Trella November 2019. Trella is my first work experience ever and i haven’t known anything other than Trella, it feels like home, the warmth the team around you has is what makes us different, it’s what makes us thrive. And of course one of my best memories was spending a month in Pakistan with the team over there, this was one of the best experiences in my life up until now.
Favorite Value and Why: My Favourite value is most definitely #AllHandsOnDeck. When I first joined Trella this is the first thing I noticed is how everyone wants to help the whole process improve not just their part, the dedication to improve as a whole and not individually is what amazes me.
Name: Mostafa ElShandawily, FP&A Analyst.
Favorite Moment: There are plenty of moments in Trella that one can relate to as “favourite”. But if I’m picking one, I would probably choose closing our series A funding and explaining to investors why Trella? The story behind what we are building and how it impacts the ecosystem. How are we planning to empower carriers? And explaining the whole flying wheel concept especially on our HQ opening day solidified that into my mind and made me feel passionate about the journey.
Favorite Value and Why: #AllHandsOnDeck There is no “I” in Team, and this is definitely endorsed and applied in Trella, we are all working together toward our mission and achieving our goals requires us all to be onboard, if one’s facing a difficulty, the other jumps in and assists. If someone made a mistake (which is rare), the others take the blame and this ignites a sense of family rather than colleagues. Which drive me in the end to try and do better.
Name: Ghalya Alrefae – KSA HR Business Partner.
Favorite Moment: I have too many great moments in Trella! But to pinpoint one for this blog. I remember back in 2020 a few weeks into lockdown, we had major changes in regulations and processes in Saudi Arabia. As a team we were trying to figure out how we can continue operating and as well as our legal standpoint, Trella was barely 10 people at the time and we all were making calls to government entities, asking questions, raising complaints. And not taking no for an answer. Until one afternoon I get a call for the head of one of the governments entities ‘’ Are you Ghalya from Trella’’ Yes’’ I replied ‘’Never seen a company so small and makes that much noise please just tell me what you want’’ It was a moment of pride for me, that Trella’s tiny team had this strong effect.
Favorite Value and Why: #ObsessOverOurCommunities from an HR person, I think it’s essential for a company’s success, What is a company without its people?