Dynamo accelerator program for transportation, logistics companies launches in Chattanooga

Ten teams set up in Loveman's Building downtown for next 12 weeks

Jake Bolling, center, Joshua Pines, left, and Benjamin Rubin work Monday, July 11, 2016, at Dynamo, a logistics and transportation accelerator launched by Access America founders.
photo Jacob Boudreau, left, and Sean Henry work Monday, July 11, 2016, at Dynamo, a logistics and transportation accelerator launched by Access America founders.

Dynamo participants

SkyDrop — Based in Monterrey, Mexico, SkyDrop specializes in connecting small businesses in Latin America with last-mile delivery options. Its founders are Armando Solbes Arguello, Arnoldo Rodriguez and Jose Zambrano. Skupos — Based in San Francisco, Skupos specializes in convenience store inventory fulfillment by tracking in-store sales in real time. Its founders are Jake Bolling, Linh Nguyen and Mike Glassman. SynapseMX — Based in Atlanta, SynapseMX specializes in aircraft maintenance tracking and management through a mobile-first platform. Its founder is Shane Ballman.Sirenum — Based in London, Sirenum specializes in staff management and health and safety compliance in heavily-regulated industries like trucking and railroads. Its founders are Ben Rubin, Ben Hizak and Josh Pines.Source: Dynamo

For the next 12 weeks, 10 carefully-selected teams will try to solve the world's transportation and logistics problems from the second floor of the Loveman's Building downtown.

The teams make up the inaugural class of the Dynamo accelerator program, a relative boot camp for companies that specialize in getting goods from point A to point B. Dynamo is hosted by Lamp Post Group and was created by Access America Transport founders Ted Alling, Barry Large and Allan Davis.

Under the direction of former CitiCorp and Wells Fargo executive Santosh Sankar, Dynamo is partnered with GE Ventures, Kenco and Ryder.

Sankar said Dynamo received applicants from 120 teams worldwide and heard back from more than 1,000 interested parties. It took several rounds of cuts to establish the final list of participants, he said. Among the 10 accepted into the program are representatives from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Mexico.

Dynamo leaders said Monday it was fitting to establish the program here, in a town with a rich logistics heritage, and importantly, serious logistics credibility. Chattanooga was formerly the home of Southwest Motor Freight, the trucking company led by the late Clyde Fuller, a long-haul pioneer in the post-regulatory trucking landscape.

Today, two of the largest trucking companies in America, U.S. Xpress and Covenant Transport - founded and run by Fuller's son and stepson, respectively - are still based here.

Alling, Large and Davis also successfully launched, grew and sold their disruptive logistics company, Access America, here. In 2014, the trio sold Access America to Chicago-based Coyote Logistics. Last year, UPS bought Coyote. The Chattanooga offices, still operating under the Coyote name, are still in operation at Warehouse Row.

Alling said Dynamo will draw on the depth of transportation and logistics professionals and veterans produced by the rich history of transportation in Chattanooga and marry it to the city's more recent start-up culture and spirit of innovation.

"[Dynamo participants] just can't find this type of entrepreneurship, or these types of dollars, on the West Coast or in New York or in London," he said.

Dynamo leaders believe the program is the only logistics- and transportation-focused accelerator in the country. They said Monday transportation and logistics are "less sexy" a subject for innovation and technology, so many other accelerator programs cast aside companies trying to break in.

"They're not naturally drawn to it," said Dynamo co-founder Davis. "The supply chain is not something that the average kid growing up is even aware of."

Dynamo requires at least one representative from each team to be here in the city for the duration of the program. Alling said for some of the teams, relocating here at the end of 12 weeks will be a real possibility.

Jon Bradford, a logistics veteran from London, is in Chattanooga now and serving as a mentor for teams in the Dynamo accelerator. He said Monday the program "is much more about businesses than start-ups," in that it's less about launching a company - like many accelerators - and more about growing one.

"It's like kindergarten versus going to college," he said.

More than half of the teams in the program are already profitable. Some are already established and now trying to overcome scale and funding issues.

Rust Felix, a co-founder of Slope, along with his brother Michael Felix, said Monday they want to learn through the program how to correctly ramp up their operations. Slope specializes in clinical research logistics.

"We just needed help with growth and scale," Felix said.

This could be a crucial learning experience for Slope.

"I kind of feel like it's our one kind of big shot, if we're going to do something important," Felix said.

Meanwhile, Mike Glassman and Jake Bolling said they're also looking to glean wisdom and guidance on growth as they go through Dynamo. Glassman and Bolling (along with Linh Nguyen) are the founders of San Francisco-based SKUPOS, an inventory network for convenience stores and distributors.

Though based in the tech and start-up capital of the country in San Francisco, the SKUPOS founders said Chattanooga had something unique to offer.

"It was almost just a no-brainer for us, because this is more the target market for us," said Glassman.

Bolling said he hopes to take what Alling, Large and Davis did with Access America and "replicate that any way possible" with their model.

Dynamo will run through Oct. 4 and culminate in a demo day. At the end of the accelerator program, some top-performing teams will be selected for investment.

A separate investment fund, not connected to the accelerator's funding, has been established through fundraising and sits now "well north of its original goal" of $12 million, said Weston Wamp, principal at Lamp Post Ventures, a new investment arm of Lamp Post Group.

The first round of fundraising for the Dynamo early stage fund closes July 29, and the first investments out of the fund will be made in teams coming out of the accelerator program. Ten percent of the fund came from its founding and managing partners.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.