October 10, 2022 - 11:23 am

Founder’s Story: Steve Johanson and Starboard Solutions

By 20Fathoms
Stephen Johanson
Steve Johanson, Founder of Starboard Solutions

Steve Johanson founded his company, Starboard Solutions, with a goal of revolutionizing the network design field in supply chain management. The successful company was recently acquired by Logility, but that doesn’t mean he is finished – Steve is looking forward to continuing to pursue his goal with the team at Logility.

Steve is a 2022 graduate of the 20Fathoms startup incubator, and like Matt Goddard, Co-founder of Hybrid Robotics, he is also a veteran. As Steve (and his chocolate lab) sat down to talk to us about his experience as a founder, we quickly learned that his approach is mission-focused – a mindset that he attributes to his 21 years in uniform. Read on to learn more about what Steve has in store for the future of the network design world. 

Creating what doesn’t exist

Design is about creating what doesn’t exist and Steve is up for that task. He has a diverse, mission-oriented background including piloting ships in the U.S. Navy, tech consulting, and 20+ years of working in supply chain management. 

One area of supply chain management that sparked Steve’s interest was network design. This specialty requires a person to look ahead and design what could be a new supply chain next week, next year, or in the next 10 years. It requires a vision of what could be and the stakes are high. Should someone choose the wrong location for distribution or the wrong partners, they could be locked in the wrong place for a very long time. 

Steve searched for solutions in the software industry to help with this process, but they were all too complex. He figured, with today’s technology there must be an easier way. 

And like all great entrepreneurs, when he couldn’t find it, he built it. 

The point and shoot solution

Starboard Solutions supply chain management technology. Credit: Starboard Solutions

Pick up your cell phone on any given day and take a photo, and you are now able to have a beautiful frameable photo with just that point-and-click maneuver. 

As Steve says, “We want to transform network design in the way that the phone transformed photography. You don’t need a super camera anymore – you can just take a photo of the Grand Canyon, even at noon, and it’s great.”

Not only has technology changed, but the needs and pace of supply chain management has changed in recent years too.

Steve said, “In an older model, you felt like you were designing and engineering your own house. 20 years ago, you could hire someone every 5 years to decide where warehouses will go, etc. Now it changes so fast that you might have big decisions to make every week or month.”

Steve said he wanted to take the hard analysis factors like cost, time, and massive amounts of data, and then package it so that it’s a user-friendly point-and-shoot solution. His technology solution works, but once that was accomplished, his next challenge was convincing his customers that it was so easy, they could do it too. Imagine, someone who once paid a consultant or engineer, is now told they can do it on their own. It can seem overwhelming. 

That’s where Steve says they bring in the confidence-building part of their services. He promises clients that the tool is built in a way where they can trust what they are drawing. He shows them he can trust themselves, a lesson that is valuable in any industry. 

Starting a revolution

Steve continues to have a hand in the next steps for Starboard. His whole team is now a part of the acquiring firm, Logility, and Steve himself is the SVP Industry Principal for Network Design. 

When asked about his future, Steve said, “I haven’t changed my goal, we are not the market leader yet. While we aren’t going to conquer the whole world, we want to conquer and revolutionize the network design world. The company that acquired us is going to help fund and direct us towards that goal.”

As for 20Fathoms, he says the community there has become a part of his life. “20Fathoms, first and foremost, are just a good bunch of people. Part of the challenges of being an entrepreneur and working on your own is encouragement. Having a place to go with some progressively-minded people where you can knock ideas around, go to lunch with, talk about your dogs…it’s just a great community.”

And for his fellow veterans, Steve offers a bit of advice: “When it comes to entrepreneurship, do it [create a service or product] because you see a problem and want to fix it. It’s a very veteran way to do things. It’s the root of great innovations, and it will be what sees you through.”