Why Chattanooga is the Silicon Valley of Trucking with Craig Fuller
About Craig Fuller
Craig Fuller is CEO and Founder of FreightWaves, the only freight-focused organization that delivers a complete and comprehensive view of the freight and logistics market. FreightWaves’ news, content, market data, insights, analytics, innovative engagement, and risk management tools are unprecedented and unmatched in the industry. Prior to founding FreightWaves, Fuller was the founder and CEO of TransCard, a fleet payment processor that was sold to US Bank. He also is a trucking industry veteran, having founded and managed the Xpress Direct division of US Xpress Enterprises, the largest provider of on-demand trucking services in North America. Craig earned a Bachelor of Business Administration/Entrepreneurship from Baylor University.
FreightWaves is the leading freight intelligence provider, offering current digital intelligence and context to the freight community on a central platform. FreightWaves’ SaaS product, SONAR, is the leading freight market analytics tool and dashboard, aggregating billions of data points from hundreds of sources to provide the fastest data in the transportation and logistics sector. FreightWaves.com, the company’s news site, is the leading provider of news and commentary for the transportation and logistics space. FreightWaves also hosts conferences under Transparency and MarketWaves branding and is a co-developer of the first futures contracts dedicated to trucking spot rates.
[01:04] Tell us a little bit about you and your company.
- I am Craig Fuller, founder and CEO of FreightWaves, which is based in Chattanooga, TN. I grew up in a trucking family and worked in my dad’s company.
- FreightWaves is the leading Freight Intel provider, offering current digital intelligence and context to the freight community on a central platform.
[03:50] Your content at FreightWaves is so insightful. I’ve noticed that to write about logistics, you have to know logistics.
- We tried to get the traditional trucking press to write about what we were doing, but it was apparent that they didn’t understand the content.
- Out of frustration, we decided to write our own content.
- Our writer was on vacation, so I once wrote about a hurricane under his name. That’s when the site exploded.
- We actually do hire a lot of great writers that don’t have experience in the space and combine them with market experts.
[08:54] Why and when did you start FreightWaves?
- The business started in 2016, but we didn’t get our first venture funding until 2017.
- I didn’t want to go back to work in the family business. I wanted to do something on my own.
- My brother is the CEO of that business now, but my father is still active in it.
- I’m sure that my brother faces difficulties because the vision was created for him.
- We have to report to our board, but they’re very supportive which gives us room to do things how we want.
[15:05] Steve Case has a venture fund and tour called The Rise of the Rest. Tell us about it and why he named Chattanooga the Silicon Valley of trucking.
- His theory was that he could go find startups in smaller cities to pitch to touring venture capitalists.
- FreightWaves won the tour’s stop in Chattanooga.
- This city has more people connected to logistics per capita than any other city in America, so it was only natural that Chattanooga become the Silicon Valley of Trucking
- Steve wrote a book called The Third Wave which deals with a deep understanding of how industries work.
- At FreightWaves, we’ve combined our tribal knowledge with influencers who are connected throughout the industry.
- Creating credibility has been the key to our success.
[21:27] We’re educating kids to leave our cities to go be successful in Silicon Valley. A lot of venture capitalists promote staying in your own city now.
- Money goes a lot further in places like Chattanooga rather than Silicon Valley.
- I think the next generation of venture capital will be in places like Detroit, Des Moines, Houston, Cleveland, etc.
- Investors are shocked that we pay our employees about the same as companies in Silicon Valley. It helps us attract and retain talent.
- We don’t have to worry as much about an employee leaving us in a few months to work for another company down the road.
[27:48] For many generations, kids have gone to school in places like Chattanooga and then left to work elsewhere. Now, they don’t have to.
- 45 out of our 130 employees in Chattanooga have moved here from other cities.
- It’s great to have a combination of homegrown employees and ones that were willing to relocate.
[30:00] You mentioned tribal knowledge, so expand on how it helped make Chattanooga the Silicon Valley of trucking.
- The machine that produces carpet was invented in Chattanooga and Dalton, Georgia (just south of here), and that carpet needed to be hauled.
- Those businesses created a lot of organic knowledge in Chattanooga, but they didn’t recycle capital.
- In the early 2000s, a guy at C.H. Robinson decided to build a brokerage business inside a brick business owned by the father of his frat brother. They founded Access America, and it grew to about $600 million in revenue in 2014.
- It merged with Coyote, and Coyote was acquired by UPS.
- A lot of the talent ended up leaving, but they were young. They started tech businesses and made investments. This created a lot of trucking companies.
[35:41] Are there companies that are moving to Chattanooga because that’s where the logistics community is?
- FreightWaves started in Fort Worth, Texas, but we moved here.
- Others include WorkHound, Reliance Insurance, and Bellhops.
- There’s a ton of industry energy around the space that’s being guided by people who have a deep understanding of how the market works.
[36:58] Is Tennessee a business-friendly state?
- It is. There’s no state income tax and the capital gains tax is being phased out.
- There are very low real estate taxes. I pay about one sixth of what I paid in Texas.
- The more money you can get into your employees’ hands, the better quality of life they’ll have.
[38:44] In Michigan, we used to look down on The South because so many people moved away from it to work in Detroit.
- During the 1930s, people didn’t have electricity and plumbing until FDR created a new deal. That spurred the initial stages of economic development.
- The South and Canada have a lot in common; effectively the same population and economic size. That’s pretty astounding.
[41:21] This has been great. Why don’t you give us a little summary?
- I love talking about these trends. Not because I think Chattanooga is the best city in the world, but there are things that have made us successful that can be applied in other places.
- We’ve got FreightWaves Live in Chicago in November. It will be a vibrant event with lots of really good speakers.
- We’re launching FreightWaves TV soon.
- Our spirit at FreightWaves is that if we do something, we do it well.
[45:09] Tell us a little bit about your SONAR project.
- People call it the Bloomberg of freight.
- It is the leading freight market dashboard, aggregating billions of data points from hundreds of sources to provide the fastest data in the transportation and logistics sector.
[47:10] Let’s say I’m a little trucking company or freight broker. What problem do you solve for me?
- If you’re a freight broker, it’s about price and capacity discovery. Also, identifying volatile markets.
- Most of the data that has been available to freight brokers is weeks old. We’re speeding that up.
- For trucking companies, it can let you know which markets to move trucks to.
- It’s bad to make decisions with data that is so old, and we fix that problem.