As waste technology solutions provider Rubicon Global closes out a year that saw two funding rounds (bringing total outside funding to $220 million at over a billion-dollar valuation) and new national and international partnerships, the company has brought on a leader with experience bringing technology to staid industries. New President Elaine Richards, formerly of automotive information and valuation site Cars.com, joined the Atlanta-based unicorn last week.
Richards has no prior experience in the waste industry, but plenty in growing a company — as executive vice president of business operations at Cars.com she was responsible for operationalizing the company’s long-term vision for growth, including overseeing acquisitions and operations.
“When Nate [Morris, Rubicon’s founder and CEO] and I met and started talking about Rubicon, I was just really interested in the parallels in terms of tech-enabled marketplaces,” says Richards. “I saw an opportunity to participate in something that was similar but different, and had really great social impact which is a real driver for me.”
Rubicon has placed much of its focus recently on the small to mid-sized business market, where Morris said they have seen 300 percent growth year-to-date. Rubicon’s platform connects these small business owners with local waste haulers, which tend to cost less than large legacy trash hauling companies. Morris says they are on track to 5,000 SMB customers by next year.
This year also saw the company launch several city pilots, including a public-private partnership with the City of Atlanta that recently wrapped up. They also conducted pilots in Columbus, GA and Santa Fe, NM.
Richards describes how her past experience will help her shape Rubicon, how they intend to help small businesses, and how she never thought she’d be excited to work in the trash industry.
How will your experience disrupting a legacy industry, as Cars.com did for the automotive industry, help with this new role?
My last role was in a similar business in that it was a technology-enabled marketplace that brings buyers and sellers together more efficiently and with better transparency of information. I had the great privilege to work in a variety of roles there from sales to marketing to operations.
Auto certainly has come forward a long way in the last decade in terms of its use of technology. They’re not early adopters, but they’ve certainly come a long way. I see the same thing potentially happening for Rubicon on both sides, with the haulers and with the customers, in terms of using tech to be better informed, more efficient, and to evolve their businesses.
What are you going to be focusing on at Rubicon?
Generally speaking, growing the business, right? Certainly the team here, which is really high-caliber, has worked hard just to propel the company forward in a really aggressive year of growth. I’d love to help continue that trajectory. In particular, we’ve got a lot of a lot of room to grow with our small and medium-sized businesses who traditionally haven’t had a lot of choice, or haven’t known that they’ve had choice, in who they use for their waste and recycling and sustainability options. We’ll be doing more to make them aware of that and help them be more successful operators.
What most excites you about the waste industry?
Twenty years ago if you had said, guess what Elaine, one day you’re going to be in the garbage business, I don’t know if I would have believed that. What I’m most excited about isn’t just the industry, but really Rubicon’s approach to it. One of the early things that attracted me was the fact that Rubicon is a certified B Corporation — that commitment to making the intersection of economic good and social good, I think is really powerful.
I really believe that as a country, and as a planet if you will, we need to see improvements in how we approach sustainability — but that realistically will only happen if we do it in such a way that it’s economically viable for everyone. And so what excites me is Rubicon’s position in how we can help businesses make that happen.
What are you most excited about over the next year?
Learning the business, working with a great team — I was really impressed throughout the whole process of getting to know the people and the company, both on an individual basis and through the work that they’ve done and the accomplishments they’ve already made. We’ve got a lot of different things going on in terms of small businesses, and also working with cities and developing new technology. I’m interested in learning more and helping to grow all of that.
So far in my limited number of days, I’ve found both Atlanta and the community here to be really welcoming and really vibrant. I’m looking forward to learning more and becoming more a part of it.