A coffee with Cate Hull, Founder & CEO — FreightExchange
I was lucky enough to catch-up with 2014 Telstra Australian Digital Scholarship winner Cate Hull in Austin, Texas during SXSW Interactive. Cate is the founder of FreightExchange — a start-up that’s unlocking the opportunity of freight carriers excess capacity. Cate and the FreightExchange team are currently in residence as part of muru-D — the start-up accelerator backed by Telstra.
There’s a lot that takes place between touching the ‘buy’ button and your goodies arriving at your front-door… We’re in Austin, Texas — a thriving start-up scene in itself — can you share a few highlights of your SXSW Interactive experience?
This is a tough questions because it’s such an incredible experience. SXSW Interactive goes for days, the first sessions start at 9.30am and go till 6pm when the Texans turn on the hospitality and the networking begins. It’s an intense week of inspiration, networking, walking for miles and not enough rest and is SO much fun.
If I had to narrow it down…
I thought Logan Green from Lyft had an inspiring vision for making car ownership unnecessary in the future.
It was incredible to hear Google X’s take on ‘fast failure’ when developing new ideas. We tend to think of it as ‘let’s try a new layout or script’ and learn from it. They think of it as ‘let’s crash a rocket’ and learn from it!
Stephen Wolfram blew my mind with the work he’s doing on artificial intelligence and immortality (yes, immortality).
- SXSW Keynote from Astro Teller, Captain of Moonshots — Google[x]
Hearing first hand stories on how some of the world’s most innovative companies (Uber, Lyft, Amazon, GoogleX and Twitter) got started, entered global markets, scaled and continue to innovate was eye opening and inspiring.
What’s the current freight/logistics landscape like, is growth still explosive, are consumer delivery expectations being met?
Consumers tend to see a small part of freight and logistics when they need to send and receive parcels or move house. For many their expectations aren't being met, because it’s inconvenient and expensive. The businesses we’re working with do this on an industrial scale, all day, every day. For them it’s even more complex, time consuming and costly.
Growth in logistics tends to keep pace roughly with the economy, so it’s exploding in China, India and other parts of SE Asia. In Australia and other mature markets, people are frustrated with how expensive freight is, which is why there’s an increasing focus on using technology to help make better use of the resources we have.
For those not familiar with FreightExchange, can you provide a brief background and overview of who you are and the services you offer?
I’m the CEO and co-founder, Martyn Hann is CTO and co-founder of FreightExchange. Martyn has spent his career developing IT platforms in logistics and I’ve had over 15 years delivering strategic IT and data driven projects for companies such as BHP, Wesfarmers, CommBank and Citibank.
We provide a platform where long-haul freight carriers (trucking companies, railways and airlines) can sell their excess capacity to businesses that need to ship goods (logistics companies, manufacturers). We save them all time when managing their freight and up to 25% on their long-haul freight costs.
Are there any challenges or advantages you've encountered as a B2B focused start-up vs. a direct to consumer proposition?
In B2B you can form relationships with the people in the businesses you’re working with. This means it’s more personable and you get better feedback on the product more quickly. We also have more chances to get it right because our customers organise hundreds of shipments each week.
The flip side of this is, to get a foot in the door, you need to build a relationship with the people in the business. Sales cycles are longer because you’re dealing with a variety of decision makers, users and use cases.
That said, we’re actually providing more of a consumer proposition to the trucking side of the business, because it’s so dominated by owner drivers. We have to switch between B2B and direct consumer facing thinking, which is an interesting challenge.
What has been the biggest personal learning experience in starting your own business?
It’s all about the team. There are only a few of us so we’ve got to be able to work together, call a spade a spade, change directions quickly, try new ideas, chalk up failures rapidly and be willing to do a bit of everything.
Starting a business is actually really really fun. I truly have no idea where time goes.
You’re now a year in to your start-up journey, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting out?
Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, I’d say choose to start a business you’re passionate about, intrigued by or just need to be part of. The hours are long and the pay is lousy, so if you’re doing it for laughs you’ll get sick of it pretty quickly!
Of course if you’re keen to be your own boss then do it anyway. Just go into it with your eyes open about the risks and you’ll learn so much along the way.
What suggestions do you have to offer large organisations wanting to support start-up business?
There are so many ways — buy their product/services; give them feedback on what’s good/bad/indifferent; form partnerships with them; promote them; help them find other customers; invest in them. Even better. Do all of the above.
What are you focusing on? What’s the next big milestone or goal for FreightExchange? where do you plan to be in five years?
At the moment we’re focusing on achieving product market fit and then scaling in domestic freight in Australia. Following that we’ll be working on the international freight segment between Australia and China. We have ambitious execution plans for the next five years, and can’t wait to see where that leads us.
How can someone interested in freight, logistics and FreightExchange learn more?
We love speaking with people about the business so do get in touch! You can find our contact details at freightexchange.com.au
Fast five with Cate Hull, Founder and CEO — FreightExchange
1. Choice at the cafe: Regular latte
2. My smartphone is: LG G3
3. The App I love the most: I ride my bike and Vespa everywhere, so I check the rain radar app frequently.
4. I’m always visiting: the fridge.
5. When I’m not working you’ll find me: at the beach, cooking or riding my bike.