On Risk Taking - Booster

By Matt McIlwain, Madrona
May 31, 2022 11:00 AM ET
Booster fuel truck.


Madrona has been investing in great founders and ideas for 27 years.  From Amazon to Smartsheet to Snowflake to Ozette – we have been there with the founding and leadership teams through all types of economic conditions.  This experience has given Madrona a rare perspective on how to help founders navigate existential risks, regardless of their industry.  We believe that if we can help founders offset risks, they can dare to dream more ambitiously, accelerating their vision of the future  and benefitting the world. 

Last week, Booster, one of those companies that dared to dream, announced their funding round of more than $125 million to build out the supply chain for mobile fuel delivery to help power the fleets that are running the ecommerce world. And doing it all with a mission to lower carbon emissions through the use of renewable fuels.  

Booster has had to weather not one, but two existential risks that had high potential to shut down the business – an innovation adverse regulatory environment and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Both were huge roadblocks, and Madrona met those with support through capital, advice and belief in Booster’s founder, Frank Mycroft.  We are so excited to be part of this round and look ahead to the next phase of growth.  This is the story of how we met Frank and the challenges the company has surmounted.    

The Beginning of Booster

Back when I first met with Frank at the University Village Starbucks in Seattle in 2015, he was a young guy who had just left Planetary Resources with an idea to change the traditional energy model.  Rather than sending vehicles to one stationary fueling location, why not deliver the fuel directly to the car? There were so many challenges ahead - not least among them were the very tight regulations in every city and locality that govern the safety of fuel delivery. 

These local laws were different from one place to the next, and given their stringent nature, not the kind of regulations that promote innovation.  Fuel must be handled with safety front and center, and to build a successful business, Frank was going to have to prove that Booster’s unique fueling platform was safe. 

Frank had both conviction and passion for solving this problem, and the humility to know he didn’t have all the answers.  Madrona supported the company as they built the regulatory framework that has led to them operating in regions across the nation.  We supported their early experimentation in California and Texas as they worked to build the business by delivering fuel to customers’ cars on corporate campus parking lots during the day. 

Frank’s model delivered real value for those campus customers, and the idea spun off into servicing larger fleet customers, who didn’t need daytime support, but needed their fleet vehicles fueled at night, ready to go when drivers arrived for nighttime or early morning delivery routes.  And thus Booster’s fleet business was born.  

Pivoting to Address Changing Market Needs

And then the pandemic happened.  A business that was focused on improving the convenience, safety and sustainability of fueling customer vehicles now rarely saw customers leaving their homes.  The company’s initial value proposition evaporated nearly overnight. But there was a silver lining: the ecommerce fleets were seeing unprecedented growth due to two main reasons – first, the pandemic restricted in-person purchases, and second, consumers had grabbed hold of the “Amazon model” and come to expect rapid delivery for almost anything as part of the “digital-first” economy. 

Booster saw the potential and invested forward in the fleet business, focusing fully on supporting these enterprise customers and building one segment  of the business into the main revenue generator.  They now service more than 500 fleets, from Amazon to UPS.  

Today, Booster operates in markets in California, Maryland, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. The company is expanding its coast-to-coast energy network every week and currently services hundreds of fleets containing thousands of vehicles daily.  Booster’s fleet customers span government, transportation, eCommerce and technology sectors. 

And now, with the global shift towards decarbonization in the face of a changing climate, Frank and his team took on the challenge of innovating once again.  Seeing the future of more sustainable alternative fuels and renewable fuels, Booster expanded its value proposition, looking for new ways to serve enterprise consumers and energy producers. 

In late 2021, Booster initiated a new partnership with Renewable Energy Group (REG), a leading provider of clean, renewable fuels and the largest supplier of advanced biofuels in North America.  A producer of renewable diesel, REG needed a way to get their product to last mile vehicles.  Booster’s unique supply chain model enabled the company to seemingly overnight turn thousands of fleet vehicles into carbon-efficient renewable diesel users.  As Frank points out, the world now runs on fleets, and the owners of these fleets are searching for ways to save on fueling costs and reduce carbon emissions against a backdrop of a changing, decarbonizing world.

Frank’s ability to see future opportunities and navigate challenges is indicative of the entrepreneurial spirit that Madrona embraces and supports. Helping founders navigate their big ideas is what drives us to continue taking risks on early-stage founders, ideas and companies.  

Over seven years later, it is incredibly rewarding to see the success that Booster, now with more than 400 employees across more than 28 states, has built.  And, it is an honor to work with Frank, Jason and his team on the next stage of growth for Booster.