Today’s topic is Why Chattanooga is the Silicon Valley of Trucking and I will be talking with Craig Fuller. Craig and his company, FreightWaves is one of the reasons, Chattanooga is called the Silicon Valley of Trucking.

[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.

Learn More:

 Craig Fuller LinkedIn profile:
FreightWaves SONAR:
FreightWaves FreightTech Conference – Chicago:
The Third Wave by Steve Case:

Chattanooga is the Silicon Valley of Trucking: