Local potential for Rubicon Global?

Waste management cloud-based service Rubicon Global is worth more than $1 billion and has penetrated the US market, but is there potential for the company to reach Australia?

US startup Rubicon Global continues to disrupt the waste industry overseas.

The cloud-based service, which focuses on sustainability, notes on its webpage that the company was founded on the idea of disrupting the waste and recycling industry and creating “less expensive, more sustainable solutions”.

The company name draws its roots to the Roman politician, Julius Caesar, who marched across the Rubicon River to seize Rome.

Much like the Australian app Airtasker, Rubicon Global’s platform works by connecting its customers with an independent network of waste transporters to bid on their business. Founded in 2008, the company has worked to drive down the cost of waste management by creating competition between waste transporters.

Related stories:

Rubicon Global doesn’t own any landfills or refuse vehicles, with its main purpose existing to divert waste from landfill. A key selling point of the service is offering waste pickup on demand, with the ability for customers to book their garbage pickup within an hour.    

The service has been utilised by both municipalities and the major waste generators, from hospitality and retails stores, property managers, industrial organisations and professional services. The company also offers real-time data and customised reports to its customers in the form of waste audits.

According to an article written by Rubicon Global in October of this year, the company has obtained a valuation of more than $1 billion, and has experienced a small and medium business growth of 300 per cent in the year to date. It’s even managed to attract funding from big name firms such as Goldman Sachs, Tudor Investment Corp and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Rubicon Global’s work has allowed it to cut its customer acquisition costs by 20 per cent. The Atlanta-based company also has offices in Lexington, New York, Kentucky, New York City, California and San Francisco and continues to grow year on year.

It’s even topped Forbes’ list of the Next Billion-Dollar Startups in 2016.

“Rubicon Global is using the free market to help solve the world’s oldest environmental problem while also saving money for our customers,” said Nate Morris, founder and CEO of Rubicon in response to the Forbes announcement.

“We are democratising the waste industry, using technology to provide independent haulers with the tools and opportunities to improve both their business and the world around them.”

SHADES OF UBER

Rubicon Global informs waste transporters once they have won a successful bid, notifying the customer via the app on the estimated pickup time, weight and volume of the waste. The company’s hauler app tracks the fleet’s route via GPS to its end destination for processing. Processors are then able to sell the finished product onto a buyer through Rubicon’s cloud-based recyclables auctions page. The app deals with payments between waste transporters, customers, processors and purchasers of recyclables electronically.   

RUBICON IN ACTION

In one of the organisation’s 2017 contracts, Rubicon Global launched a service in the City of Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico in the southern US. The City of Santa Fe enlisted the services of the company to assess its diversion and recycling rates.

The company has also attracted other major players such as SUEZ in Europe, which in January announced a strategic partnership to accelerate the development of the platform in the US and European markets. As part of the arrangement, SUEZ committed to using Rubicon’s technology to improve its collection business. The partnership also aims to help city governments improve their residential waste services through data collection, in addition to fleet optimisation.

AUSTRALIAN POTENTIAL

David Puxty, Owner of Fernlawn Environmental, says he is intrigued by the business model and sees a future for a similar product in Australia. Locally, David works with sensor and management system Smartbin to deploy the technology, which monitors bin fill levels across municipal councils and private businesses. David has also created BinShare, a peer-to-peer marketplace for selling space in bins and access to recycling facilities between businesses.

“On-demand scheduling brings with it numerous benefits. Clients can make sure their bins are being serviced when they need to, rather than set schedules that suit waste companies,” David says.

“The sensor market is increasingly growing and we hope to be the centrepiece of a similar model in Australia at some stage in the future. Sensors will tell drivers where they need to go and the likes of Rubicon Global could be there managing the various waste companies as contractor-removalists.”

However, David notes a key difference in the waste transportation market is that the USA has more owner-operator drivers and is less of an oligopoly than the Australian industry.

“The key question is whether the major waste companies would sell their services to a Rubicon Global in Australia, or whether big companies would utilise their own data to inform their pickup service,” he says.

Rubicon Global was contacted for comment.