Inc. 25 Disruptors: Rubicon Global: How one man’s trash became this entrepreneur’s $300 million garbage empire

WHY IT’S DISRUPTIVE

Nate Morris has been passionate about garbage for decades. As a child, he watched his grandfather run the Kentucky branch of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), which taught him to love the professions that tend to be underappreciated. “Trash is a kitchen table issue that reaches Middle America–not just the coasts,” says Morris, who in 2009 launched a technology company to connect independent waste removal companies to corporate clients. The startup, called Rubicon Global, claims it can save those clients up to 30 percent. Rubicon generates revenue via a monthly and annual subscription fee it charges for haulers to use the app. (In addition to helping startups land business, the app can source discounted fuel, tire insurance, and auto parts, and navigate the quickest routes under various weather conditions.) The company has grown to work with clients including 7-Eleven and Wegmans and more than 5,500 independent haulers. Last year Rubicon saw more than $300 million in revenue. To date, the startup has raised more than $175 million, and clinched a valuation of $825 million.

BIGGEST CHALLENGES

Existing players aren’t going to cede territory willingly. Waste Management and Republic Services account for nearly 40 percent of the market combined, and both have plenty of capital to spend. One major challenge for Rubicon has been making a dent in the sector: “This is the world’s toughest industry,” concedes Morris. “It’s been controlled for generations by a duopoly that has resisted technology and innovation.”

Nevertheless, the entrepreneur says he’s newly energized by the election of Donald Trump, which could herald a new age for U.S. companies. “I’m incredibly hopeful that the president will help make and create opportunity for small businesses, which he’s promised to do,” he says. –Zoë Henry

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