Since 2009, the venture capital ecosystem has poured $180 billion into mobility tech. According to Pritzker Group Venture Capital Vice President Ty Findley, about 21% of the total mobility tech funding has gone into freight companies specifically. A lot of that money ended up in Chicago.
Chicago, a well-established hotbed of logistics companies, is home to both industry giants like C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. (NASDAQ: CHRW) and Echo Global Logistics Inc. (NASDAQ: ECHO) and startups like Forager and project44. Additionally, more than 10% of the companies featured on this year's Freight.Tech 100 list are headquartered in the Windy City.
During a fireside chat at FreightWaves LIVE Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 12, Findley and Forager CEO and Co-founder Matt Silver discussed what makes Chicago so attractive to the logistics industry. The chat, dubbed "The Latest in Chicago FreightTech: How one of the Largest Hubs in the Country Is Staying Ahead," hit on everything from the Midwestern work ethic to simple geographical advantage.
"There are all these logistics companies. All the big brokerages have offices here, and you have a lot of talent that comes out of those companies. You've also got a ton of tech startups," Silver said. "Chicago seems to be a place to breed that because there are already a lot of people working in [the logsitics] industry. There are a lot of network opportunities that you would not have without getting on a plane in another city."
Silver spent over a decade working at Chicago-based Coyote Logistics before co-founding venture-backed Forager last year. The company focuses on bringing simplicity and visibility to cross-border freight. For Silver, Chicago's labor market gives it a leg up over other cities.
"It is the right place to be able to build a business because there are so many people. The Midwest is a hardworking place," Silver said. "A lot of people who come out of these brokerages will bust their tails every single day. They are hustling and grinding."
Silver has noticed that a significant number of Chicago's most talented employees are hitting career ceilings and getting frustrated because there is no way to move up in their current companies. Even though a portion of Chicago's logistics workforce may find themselves locked in non-competes with their current companies, he sees the overall situation as an opportunity to network with — and potentially recruit — the industry's next generation of movers and shakers.
At the end of the day, logistics is still simple: "Take care of the customer and the rest will take care of itself," Findley said.