Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has invested in a freight forwarding startup that wants to “radically simplify how companies import and export goods”.
Beacon, set up in 2018, said logistics incumbents were “slow to digitise” and fewer than 30% of shippers were satisfied with the customer service they received, making the industry “ripe for disruption” through AI, data and automation technologies. The company said it used data science and machine learning to create a platform that gives a real-time view of the global delivery of cargo and shipping costs and prices. This allows shipping routes and processes to be optimised to improve cost, speed and predictability.
Beacon said that the former was still a highly fragmented market in which the top 10 forwarders globally control just 43%. Beacon said it planned to offer qualifying customers supply chain financing to help solve “one of the biggest challenges faced by importers today – cash flow”. “Suppliers often demand payment before goods are shipped and, with months-long shipment times, importers need flexible finance to meet their working capital needs,” the company said.
The freight forwarding and supply chain finance industries are worth an estimated $1tn and $12tn a year, respectively.
Beacon has raised $15m in funding from a number of investors including Bezos, the world’s richest man. It was founded by former Uber executives CEO Fraser Robinson and COO Dmitri Izmailov. Its CTO Pierre Martin was head of software engineering for Amazon’s package and freight transport technology. Alongside Bezos other investors included Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Robinson said: “The traditional freight forwarder model remains surprisingly analogue, using systems and processes that are slow and inefficient, with opaque pricing and limited use of technology. “With digitalisation accelerating globally as a result of Covid-19, we believe the future of the traditional freight forwarder is more precarious than ever.”