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March 29, 2016 10:40 AM, EDT
Tennessee Businessmen Seek 10 Teams for Logistics Business Accelerator Program

The founders of Access America Transport announced March 28 the formation of both an accelerator program to find and grow young, innovative logistics companies and a $12 million fund to invest in the most successful of those new ventures.

The accelerator will be housed at a 6,000-square-foot space in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the program is currently on the hunt for 10 teams to participate in the three-month program, which will run from July 6 to October 4.

Barry Large, who along with Ted Alling and Allan Davis built Access America Transport into one of the nation's top logistics management firms, said the trio is creating the accelerator program and the sister early stage fund as part of a larger effort to firmly establish Chattanooga's place as one of — if not the stand-alone — premiere logistic towns in America.

"We've planted the flag, I think, in Chattanooga," said Large.

Large, Alling and Davis founded Access America in 2002 and turned it over the course of a decade into a $500 million-a-year company before selling it to Chicago-based Coyote Logistics, which in turn was bought by UPS last year.

Access America is only the latest national transportation logistics company to call Chattanooga home. The city's logistics heritage dates back half a century to Southwest Motor Freight and Clyde Fuller, pioneer of longhaul trucking, as well as Fuller's son Max Fuller, who founded trucking firm U.S. Xpress here, and Fuller's step-son David Parker, who founded trucking firm Covenant Transport.

U.S. Xpress and Covenant today are two of the largest trucking companies in the country. Chattanooga is also home to McKee Foods, and its fleet of trucks, Southern Champion Tray, and its fleet as well as manufacturing and warehousing giant Kenco Logistics, among others.

U.S. Xpress Enterprises ranks No. 18 and Covenant ranks No. 46 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

It's this heritage that lends credibility to Chattanooga as a legitimate logistics pioneer, Lamp Post officials said March 28. But the presence of logistics giants here also means there is a pipeline of institutional knowledge and experience to tap.

"I think the legacy of Chattanooga really helped us," said Large.

Santosh Sankar, director of Dynamo, a logistics accelerator program, said the new accelerator — which will be led by Large, Alling and Davis, as well as former Techsters managing director Jon Bradford — expects to receive as many as 500 applications for the available 10 spots. He said the Dynamo team is also reaching out to known logistics teams across the country in an effort to bring in the best and top industry talent.

Teams will receive a stipend, and help find housing in Chattanooga. At least one founder per team is required to be in Chattanooga for the duration of the three-month accelerator program. Accelerator stipends are negotiable.

The program differs from past Lamp Post and Lamp Post-associated accelerator programs in that its focus is narrow, focused on logistics, but its recruiting pool is national, and even global.

The goal is to develop disruptive logistics innovations here to help along the mature logistics industry, which by-and-large has been reluctant to adopt new technologies.

"We don't know where the next big, disruptive force is going to come from," said Sankar.

But the goal is also to bring top industry talent to town, and hopefully keep them here, which is where the new, first-of-its-kind Lamp Post $12 million fund comes into play. Logistics innovators might be overshadowed in other tech circles, said Zach Wamp, a former U.S. congressman who currently is a consultant, on March 28, which is one reason to allow them come here and specialize and be the focus of intentional investment.

Some top-performing teams will be selected for investment following the accelerator program, after a demo day in October.

Wamp said between now and then, he will be raising funds regionally. He's a principal in the fund, and said it will not be taking any local, state or federal money.

The new fund is not to be confused with the actual accelerator program, which relies on separate funding for participants. The Dynamo fund will be managed by a new, venture arm of Lamp Post Group, called Lamp Post Ventures. Large, Alling and Davis are general partners at Lamp Post Ventures.

Dynamo is taking applications from any logistics-centered business in any stage of development for the summer accelerator program, and interested parties can apply at hellodynamo.com/dynamo-accelerator through May 8.