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At the academy, in New London, Connecticut, Borgerson played NCAA tennis and was also a cutup, racking up demerits for such antics as placing a sailboat on the commandant of cadets’ front lawn and leading bar patrons in a rendition of “Semper Paratus,” the school’s theme song. Still, he graduated with honors and spent the next four years piloting a 367-foot cutter — which seized five tons of cocaine in the Caribbean — then captaining a patrol boat that saved 30 lives on search-and-rescue missions. From 2001 to 2003 the Coast Guard sent Borgerson to the Fletcher School at Tufts University to earn his master’s of arts in law and diplomacy. While at Tufts he volunteered at a Boston homeless shelter for military veterans and founded a Pet Pals therapy program for senior citizens.

Following graduation, from 2003 to 2006, Borgerson taught U.S. history, foreign policy, political geography and maritime studies at the Coast Guard Academy, and co-founded its Institute for Leadership. While there he would get up at 4:00 each morning to work on his Ph.D. thesis exploring U.S. port cities’ approaches to foreign policy. He would also travel to Boston to complete his course work at Tufts and meet with his adviser, John Curtis Perry.

Borgerson’s military allegiance runs deep. One weekend last fall he played football in a service academy alumni game. On another he attended the Army-Navy game. Still militarily fit at age 40, the 6-foot-5 Borgerson works out regularly at an inner-city gym aimed at helping youths find an alternative to gang violence; a few weeks ago he was there boxing with ex-convicts and lifting weights.

Leaving the Coast Guard was a hard decision for Borgerson, resulting in part from his frustration with the military bureaucracy’s stymieing of his bid to get back to sea for security missions. With his degrees in hand, he applied for a fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations. During the application process he met Edward Morse, now global head of commodities research at Citigroup. Morse was on the CFR selection committee in 2007 and recommended Borgerson as a fellow.

Morse introduced Borgerson to commodities, and to trading terms like “contango” and “backwardation.” Morse himself had, earlier in career, gotten the jump on official oil supply data by hiring planes to take photos of the lid heights of oil tanks in Oklahoma’s Cushing field.

Working for the CFR in New York reconnected Borgerson with his Missouri roots. Bill Bradley’s aunt called the former senator to say: “The son of a family who went to our church in Crystal City is in New York. Would you welcome him?” Bradley did — and would later play a part in Borgerson’s career development.

While at the CFR, Borgerson became an expert on the melting of the North Pole ice cap, writing numerous published articles on its implications; this led him to co-found, with the president of Iceland, the Arctic Circle, a nonprofit designed to encourage discussion of the future of that region. Borgerson recently spoke to 50 international generals and admirals about the Arctic and is co-drafting a proposal for a treaty between the U.S. and Canada that would help resolve the differences the two countries have in allowing international ship and aircraft travel through the Northwest Passage.

His Arctic research led to an aha moment early in 2008, while he was still with the CFR, on a visit to Singapore and the Strait of Malacca with his Fletcher School classmate Rockford Weitz and their former Ph.D. adviser, Perry. Seeing the mass of ships sailing through the strait, Borgerson and Weitz decided to build a data analytics firm using satellite tracking of ships.

Like many successful entrepreneurs, the two struggled to find financing before reaching out to a network of friends and their contacts. One was Randy Beardsworth, who had sat with Borgerson at a 2007 Coast Guard Academy dinner, where Beards­worth, then the Coast Guard’s chief of law enforcement in Miami, was the guest speaker. Borgerson “made references to history and literature, and I thought, ‘Here is a sharp guy,’” recalls Beards­worth. “We have been friends ever since.”

But Borgerson didn’t turn to his new friend in his initial fund-raising. “He came to me in 2009, after he had been turned down by 17 VCs, was maxed out on his credit card, was married and had a newborn son,” says Beardsworth, who was reviewing the Department of Homeland Security as part of the Obama administration’s transition team.

Beardsworth came to the rescue, not only committing to invest a small amount but introducing his friend to Doug Doan. A West Point graduate and Washington-­based angel investor, Doan took to Borgerson right away. “To be honest, it wasn’t his idea, it was Scott I invested in,” says Doan, who provided $100,000 in capital and introduced Borgerson to a few friends, who added $75,000. Manzi came on board as an investor in 2009, having been asked by Bradley to check out Borgerson’s plan for a data metrics firm. (Manzi knew Bradley from the late 1990s, when the latter was considering a run for U.S. president.)

With Doan, Doan’s friends and Manzi as investors, CargoMetrics was finally able to garner its first venture capital commitment in early 2010, from Boston-based Ascent Venture Partners. That gave the start-up the capital it needed to hire a bevy of data scientists to build an analytics platform that it could sell to commodity-trading houses and other commercial users. In 2011, CargoMetrics added Summerhill Venture Partners, a Toronto-based firm with a Boston office, to its investor roster, raising roughly $18 million from venture capital and angels for its data business.

By then Borgerson had already begun to contemplate converting CargoMetrics from an information provider into a money manager; he saw the potential to extract powerful trade signals from its technology rather than share it with other market participants for a fee. Among those he consulted was serial entrepreneur Peter Platzer, a friend of one of CargoMetrics’ original investors. Platzer, a physicist by training, had spent eight years as a quantitative hedge fund manager at Rohatyn Group and Deutsche Bank before co-founding Spire Global, a San Francisco–­based company that uses its own fleet of low-orbit satellites to track shipping, in 2012. “We had lengthy conversations on how to set up quant trading systems and how [commodities giant] Cargill had made a similar decision to set up its own in-house hedge fund to trade on the information it was gathering,” recalls Platzer.

So Borgerson reset his course. Doan describes the decision as a “transformative moment” for the CargoMetrics co-founder. “The military trains you to be a strategic thinker,” Doan explains. “Scott had been tactical until then, making small pivots, and like a general who sees the theater of war, he moved into strategic mode.”

Borgerson’s ambition to succeed was in no small part fueled by the early turndowns by many venture capital firms and a fierce determination to best the Wall Street bunch at their own game. “There’s a lot that motivates me, including — if I’m honest — I have a big chip on my shoulder to beat the prep school, Ivy League, MBA crowd,” he says. “They’re bred to make money, but they’re not smarter than everyone else; they just have more patina and connections.” (Bred differently, he spent last Thanksgiving visiting his parents in rural Missouri. After breakfast he and his father were in the woods, shooting assault guns at posters of terrorists, with Gunny, his father’s Anatolian shepherd dog.)

Borgerson’s plan was not met with enthusiasm from the company’s then co-CEO, Weitz. CargoMetrics had been gaining clients and meeting its goals, and was on its way to becoming a successful data service provider. Weitz, who now is president of the Gloucester, Massachusetts–based Institute for Global Maritime Studies and an entrepreneur coach at Tufts’ Fletcher School, did not return e-mails or phone calls asking for comment. For his part, Borgerson says: “A ship cannot have two captains. The company simply matured and evolved into a streamlined management structure with one CEO instead of two.”

Eventually, Doan went along with Borgerson’s plan. “We believe in Scott and that shipping holds the no-shit, honest truth of what the economy is doing,” he says. But buying out the venture capital firms several years ahead of the usual exit time would require a hefty premium over what they had invested.

Once again Borgerson’s early supporters played a key role. Manzi, a fellow Fletcher School grad who had mentored Borgerson since the company’s early days, put up more money (making CargoMetrics one of his single largest investments) and introduced him to a powerful group of wealthy investors. Separately, the CFR’s Morse suggested that Borgerson meet with Daniel Freifeld, founder of Washington-based Callaway Capital Management and a former senior adviser on Eurasian energy at the U.S. Department of State. Impressed by Borgerson’s “intellectual honesty, vigor and more than four years of historical data,” Freifeld brought the idea to a billionaire third-party investor, who took his advice and became one of CargoMetrics’ largest backers. “I would not have suggested the investment if CargoMetrics had not done the hard part first,” adds Freifeld, declining to name the investor.

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