Augie Grasis doesn’t shy away from the label “serial entrepreneur.”
“I guess it’s true from the standpoint that I’ve had a number of startups,” says Grasis, the founder of multiple technology companies in Kansas City. “It’s really what interests me the most and what turns me on the most about life and about commerce. It’s innovating and improving the way things are done.”
Grasis is best known for starting up Handmark, which made content apps for the Palm operating system before expanding to other platforms and being acquired by Sprint in 2013.
But his innovating began much earlier, including his 1983 founding of Foresight Resources, which updated and expanded the accessibility of computer-aided design (CAD) software to personal computers. The company pioneered software products bringing home/landscape design to consumers before eventually selling it to the much larger Autodesk.
His most recent company, which changed its name from ShipX to FreightorGator last week, provides customers with multiple quotes and booking options for LTL (Less than a Truck Load) shipping. Grasis compares it to Travelocity and other websites that have largely replaced travel agents. He thinks it will transform the shipping industry, even though it will face initial resistance.
“We’re bringing technology to an old industry,” Grasis says. “You’re dealing with different kinds of prejudices. People are set in their way. And yet there’s a new wave of millennials coming into the marketplace who will refuse to do it the other way. They will not pick up the phone and talk to some guy about booking freight. They’ll demand that it’s online.”
Grasis says the company’s name change reflects the move from a more traditional service to something more contemporary that “puts a smile on your face.”
“We’re building something new, something innovative,” Grasis says. “There’s a tremendous amount of excitement internally in our company around this name change, this new brand. And I think that reflects to the outside very, very well.”
Grasis reflected on his life as an entrepreneur as part of KCUR’s Innovation KC series. Some of his other thoughts:
On the meaning of entrepreneurship
I think an entrepreneur is a businessperson, obviously. I would say, in my mind, an entrepreneur is somebody who is inventing something, innovating, inventing, maybe changing, maybe improving the way things are being done.
On Innovation As 'Disrupting'
Well, I frankly don't like that word that much. It's a pretty commonly used word around entrepreneurs; I don't necessarily want to make people mad, but it's really more “innovate” or “improve” the way people are doing things. And if that's disruptive, it's disruptive. But as it turns out some of the things that we've done have been disruptive to markets. For example, with FreightorGator, our new company, we're kind of taking the middle man out of LTL shipping.
On Kansas City As A Center For Innovation
Well, I love Kansas City. It's a great place to build a business. I wouldn't build a business anywhere else. I really believe that. The shortcoming, in some sense, could be funding, but actually it's not that hard to get funding from other places to invest in your company in Kansas City. I think a lot of people feel that way about Kansas City.