Big Data & Logistics Automation

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First seen in TechSydney. Written by Joanna Ross 28/04/17

Cate Hull was way ahead of the data curve — she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Queensland, and spent the early part of her professional life in big data for corporate enterprises long before the field of “data science” was considered a career.

While working and living in Fremantle, Hull says she began to “look for a business idea that could play to my strengths: big data and enterprise automation.” She started talking to port managers and freight operators and realised there was an opportunity to apply real-time optimisation to freight transport fleets to maximise space usage. Hull saw two empty trucks entering and leaving a container park and wondered, “Why isn’t there a system to tell one of those trucks to stay at home?” At the same time, she recognised that freight transportation was a trillion dollar industry globally and that could benefit from greater automation.

Two years after exiting the muru-D accelerator program, Hull’s company FreightExchange has turned over $2M and helps more than 1500 SMEs with their shipping needs. She’s looking to raise another round mid-year that will “accelerate our growth here and internationally.”

Hull entered the tech fray early — her father encouraged her to learn programming on an Apple IIE as a child, and she started doing data analytics for insurance companies straight out of university. She also gained a global perspective early on.

“Like a lot of Australians, I lived all over the world after school before settling back here,” she explains. Hull’s favourite city (other than Sydney, of course) is New York: she loves its “vibrancy, richness of culture, and diversity of ideas.”

There were surprises along the way to building a startup — including hiring and retaining strong customer service staff.

“With freight, there are often six different parties involved. It’s complex and things do go wrong — you automate as much as you can, but in the end, we’re working in an old fashioned industry and when things go wrong customers like to be able to speak to someone to help sort it out,” Hull explains. Customer service staff, though, have proved to be “high cost and high turnover.” Though she hasn’t yet examined how the recently-announced 457 visa changes will affect FreightExchange, the policy seems “short-sighted but hopefully not xenophobic,” Hull says.

Nonetheless, “I love the fact that there is now a growing tech community in Sydney. We’re always keen to collaborate and to get involved. Drop us a line anytime.”