Data to $$$: How we Used Data to Run an Arbitrage Play on 18-Wheeler Trailers During a Supply Chain Shortage

Eric Thumos Sullivan
Nov 20, 2023

During a time of economic uncertainty, I learned that sometimes the most intriguing opportunities arise from the least expected places. This lesson came to life when a multi-event World Series of Poker winner — let’s name him Jack — brought forth a peculiar yet promising proposition.

The Opportunity

The U.S. was experiencing a supply chain hiccup, and one item noticeably absent from the shelves was the 18-wheeler trailer. Given their indispensable role in the supply chain, the resulting demand and inflated prices opened the door for a strategic arbitrage play. Jack had an ace up his sleeve: A contact in Mexico with a healthy supply of trailers and a continuous operation for producing new product. The pressing question was, who was most likely to buy them?

My team dove into our internal databases to extract the initial insights. To enrich our findings and ensure we had a holistic view, we combined this data with:

  1. **Secretary of State Records:** These records provided insights into businesses and their nature of operations.
  2. 2. **LinkedIn Profiles:** A goldmine of professional data, LinkedIn offered detailed profiles of businesses, their key decision-makers, and sometimes even their operational challenges shared in posts or articles.
  3. 3. **Google Business Listings:** This platform revealed the geographical distribution of potential buyers, their scale of operations, and customer reviews that often hinted at service disruptions due to trailer shortages.

By integrating data from these sources, we curated a robust list of potential clients, each grappling with the challenges of the trailer shortage.

Armed with our tailored data, we initiated outreach (An email campaign of massive scale). We offered businesses a timely solution to their trailer woes. The response was immense. The trailers we procured from Mexico, even after considering transportation and other related expenses, allowed us to maintain more than a 100% markup on our cost, while still providing a competitive offering in the inflated marketplace.

Our journey, though brief, was intensely rewarding. This venture highlighted not only the power of data-driven decisions but also the significance of utilizing a mix of internal and publicly available data sources to leverage a well timed strategy against a small widow of great opportunity.

Looking back, it’s clear that success in business isn’t always about pioneering innovations. Sometimes, it’s about observing, leveraging the right tools, and capitalizing on timely opportunities. This arbitrage venture stands as a testament to that and I’m forever grateful to “Jack” for showing me the importance of timing. He knew my hand, read the players at the table and showed me what it means to have good odds.

We played the hand and won big.

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