FreightWaves, the startup building a publication, data analytics service and financial futures market for the freight industry, took home the $100K investment prize at the Rise of the Rest pitch competition in Chattanooga last week. However, while most startups would funnel that money into product development or business growth, founder and CEO Craig Fuller is investing it right back into his employees’ education.
Fuller will use 100 percent of the ROTR investment to fund educational opportunities for current or future employees in data science, economic or journalism; as well as provide relocation assistance for future employees to move to their Chattanooga headquarters. In this way, Fuller says they are directly supporting the mission of Rise of the Rest as Steve Case and the other partners envision the fund.
“We want the Rise of the Rest Seed capital directly focused on the mission that Steve Case laid out in his goal of promoting economic growth outside of traditional venture communities,” Fuller said in a blog post.
He points out that they have already seen success in both raising capital, following a $3.4 million seed round in 2017, and substantially growing revenue. Fuller claims that FreightWaves’ revenue growth is 17x projections from late 2017.
To support that growth they have already expanded their team from eight last summer to more than 40 currently — and they’re planning to double again by the end of the year. They’re hiring right now across editorial, data science, operations and sales.
“We want to continue to build the smartest team in transportation by attracting the right people,” Fuller said. To that end, their educational grants will help not only support current employees, but attract talent.
“Any employee that wishes to further their education, we are in full support of helping to fund it, so long as the education courses or degrees are in concentrations of studies that are highly valued by us or the broader employment market,” Fuller says. He anticipates offering grants of up to $20,000 to at least 10 individuals over the next year.
Additionally, Fuller believes that the ability to help future employees relocate to Chattanooga will bring top talent into a region that lacks a major university and may have trouble appealing to workers.
“Like most cities around the country, getting tech talent is challenging, especially getting access to data scientists. The good news is that venture capital investments such as the Rise of the Rest and other investments can actually help to solve this issue,” he says.
Once new employees get to Chattanooga, Fuller says they immediately see its benefits — low cost of living, no state or city income taxes, cheap housing prices and more.
“Chattanooga is a wonderful city with a great life-work balance,” says Fuller.