Part 1 in our "Why They Succeed" series...
If you follow either the local startup scene or logistics news, chances are you’re already well aware of Dynamo, the country’s only logistics technology venture capital fund — that happens to be headquartered right here in Chattanooga.
In short order, Dynamo has grown from an idea into one of the largest venture funds in the Southeast. But how have they achieved this feat? We sat down with Dynamo co-founder and director, Santosh Sankar, to learn more about why Dynamo has reached such success so quickly.
Chattanooga: A dynamic environment
In the aftermath of the Access America/Coyote Logistics merger, Santosh was introduced to Lamp Post Group’s Ted Alling, Barry Large, and Allan Davis. At that point, Santosh was looking to make a professional change away from the New York finance scene.
Alling implored him to “give me a month, let me show you Chattanooga,” while Santosh figured out his next steps. Santosh said Alling wanted him to visit in person, because there is just something about the city that's hard to express verbally.
"When I came here, I understood why Ted couldn't explain it on the phone. It's really hard to put into words."
Santosh fell for the fusion of Chattanooga’s outdoor opportunities and its business energy. Just a few months after visiting, he moved here in April 2015, and along with Lamp Post leadership, he co-founded a completely separate venture called Dynamo in early 2016.
To Santosh, "Dynamo is the interesting result of Chattanooga's heritage." He says the town has long enjoyed the combined efforts of smart “people, ideas, (and) capital,” and that Dynamo aims to help young logistics technology businesses grow from that foundation.
Dynamo’s keys to success
If you consider all the businesses the Dynamo crew has supported — whether through Dynamo or during their past Lamp Post days — they’ve had a birds-eye-view of many different leadership styles.
What separates the successful from the struggling? Here’s what Santosh thinks:
- A “blue collar,” tenacious mentality
Santosh leans hard on the last two bullet points. Not because they’re more important than the fist couple, but because they are, in his opinion, often taken for granted in the business world.
Especially when it comes to leadership.
He says that "as a business (leader), how you relate to your customers, how you relate to the folks who invested in you, and how you relate to your employees" will be infinitely more effective if you try to understand their unique perspectives and spend time questioning your own efforts and motives.
The value of good partners
Santosh also sees immense value in surrounding himself with dependable partners. "Our founders are amazing, our LPs (investors) are amazing, but our service providers are just as amazing."
As an example, he says Market Street Partners’ "forward-thinking philosophy and approach is needed in the industry."
"I'm able to email these folks at 8 o'clock at night, saying I just committed to an investment, we need the documents blessed, get the cash earmarked in our accounts, and make sure everyone's on the same page.”
“I don't think a lot of people do that,” he says.
That gives Santosh more time to focus on his...
Favorite parts of working with founders
Few things get Santosh as fired up as “seeing a founder’s excitement and their relentless passion in pursuit of their vision."
"As a founder, you have to be a little crazy to leave amazing opportunities behind and put things at risk because you believe you can go out and get something done. That takes a different mentality."
Taking that sacrifice into account, he loves hearing the excitement in a founder’s voice when they land a big customer or make a series of big hires.
Five years from now, Santosh envisions Dynamo raising a couple more funds, "each one rationally larger than the one before,” and a bevy of portfolio companies positively impacting the logistics world.
“As our needs grow, we'll have to be with business partners who are sophisticated enough to meet those new demands.”
At Market Street Partners, we look forward to helping Dynamo change the logistics landscape for good.
Be sure to read more profiles in our “Why They Succeed” series.