Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Cate Hull’s business FreightExchange uses clever tech to fill the spare capacity of freight carriers, with help from a start-up accelerator.

Cate Hull was motivated to launch FreightExchange, an online freight capacity marketplace, on discovering how much empty space existed in trucks, trains and aircraft globally.  She figured there had to be a technology solution to make it easier for businesses to move their consignments and for freight operators to improve their margins by filling more of their capacity. In June 2014 she created the company. Three months later she recruited Martyn Hann, an experienced technology officer. 

man and woman stood in transport depot with freight carriers in the background

Telstra expertise at incubator stage

Cate jumped onto the trend for entrepreneurs to take advantage of incubators and shared workspaces. Muru-D, the start-up accelerator backed by Telstra, accepted Cate’s business and she moved it into the Telstra Exchange on Oxford Street in Paddington, Sydney in October 2014.

Cate describes muru-D as an ‘amazing opportunity’ and anticipates that her business will remain within the incubator for about  six months.

By late 2014, FreightExchange had developed its first online platform for small trucking businesses and their customers.

The system itself has two elements. Business operators with goods to ship go to the FreightExchange website and key in where the consignment is and where it needs to go. The website then shows a list of all available truck ‘runs’ from participating road transport operators and the business can make a booking that meets its needs.

It also includes a ‘last-minute load’ option so that operators can promote free capacity at short notice, and a scheduling tool so businesses can book in multiple consignments on repeat trips.

The FreightExchange service earns a commission on every match it makes between operators with spare capacity and businesses with goods to ship.

Availability and reliability are critical to the viability of FreightExchange. To meet the needs of its users, the service runs in the Telstra cloud and can be accessed using a web browser.

Advice from big business

Cate notes that Telstra’s expertise in technology and related business strategy has helped FreightExchange grow a lot faster than she’d first imagined. “We’re progressing faster than anticipated by narrowing the scope of work that we’re trying to tackle,” Cate says.

Her earlier roadmap was based on developing a business-to-business platform for different modes of transport. “What we have learned here at muru-D is to keep the end goal in mind, but now we’re focusing on road transport only — in particular companies with a certain number of trucks travelling on the east coast of Australia.”

Other invaluable guidance has come from networks of people within Telstra, in particular marketing teams and industry experts. Cate singles out Charlie Macdonald, Manufacturing, Transport and Logistics Executive at Telstra, for introducing her to potential customers, as well as transport and logistics leaders who can provide input into product development.

Nick Adams, Director of CRM, Loyalty and Digital Marketing at Telstra, has also provided marketing assistance, while muru-D’s expertise in technology has helped improve the performance of the FreightExchange website. 

The reason I’m doing this business is that everyone wins.

— Cate Hull

Telstra Broadband ‘extraordinary’

While FreightExchange is free to use whatever infrastructure or platforms it likes, being located in a Telstra ‘muru-D’ facility makes Telstra’s cloud, telephony, broadband and SMS platforms a natural choice.

“Because we’re in the cloud, our software development cycles are much faster,” says Cate who appreciates muru-D’s state-of-the-art facilities. “ We’re definitely spoiled here.”

The FreightExchange team typically releases a new version of its software two to three times a week, with each version containing a new feature, or fixes for existing parts of the system. “The fact we work in the cloud allows us to set up additional resources very quickly and with no upfront cost, and get rid of them if and when we don’t need them,” Martyn says. “Working in the cloud also gives us the flexibility to work in other locations as well, so when we leave muru-D in May 2015 we will simply be able to move somewhere else and carry on.”

Businesses and transport operators that want to use FreightExchange do not have to buy, install and manage dedicated software. They can just log on to the FreightExchange website over the internet.   

Cate is modest when it comes to forecasting where the business will be in the longer  term, but she is clear that her dream is to contribute to Australia’s transition to a knowledge economy. 

“The reason I’m doing this business is that everyone wins — we can help small businesses be successful and contribute to the community by making better use of assets such as roads and railways,”  she adds. 

Insights from Telstra's muru-D Co-Founders

Ann Parker, co-founder of muru-D, is impressed with the start-up accelerator’s ability to uncover world-class entrepreneurial talent. She was “bowled over” when unsuccessful applicants from the first round returned with far stronger propositions.

“From a personal perspective, I’m thrilled to see such a strong representation of women in technology coming through the muru-D doors. It’s refreshing and such a positive message to send to the wider business community,” she says.

Fellow co-founder Charlotte Yarkoni, who is also executive director of Telstra Software Group, said nurturing innovation within Australia was critical. “If we don’t innovate, we risk becoming irrelevant,” she says. “It’s a priority for Telstra and we’re starting to see it become a priority for more and more organisations, which is very exciting for everyone involved in the business.

“Telstra is committed to giving founders of innovative businesses the platform they need to develop their ideas and better their chances of success in Australia and internationally,” she says. “We’re confident many of the businesses going through the program will be part of a bright future.”

Learn more:

Find out how muru-D can help start-ups: the terms and conditions, and requirements for participants here.

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