Haven Streamlines The Process Of Ocean Freight Shipping

Getting stuff from point A to point B should be straightforward. For companies that need international cargo shipping, however, the process often turns into a labyrinthine tangle of phone calls, faxes, and emails to third-party service providers with different pricing models and ways of sharing data. A new startup called Haven wants to simplify things.

Based in San Francisco and Singapore, Haven gives shippers an online platform to compare and reserve container slots from 10 ocean carriers. The startup launched on March 2 and has already raised a $3 million seed round from Data Collective, OATV, and First Round Capital, as well as individual investors.

Founder Matt Tillman decided to tackle international logistics after running into a headache of his own while planning a road trip over the Pan-American Highway.

“Due to various import/export laws, the process required me to send my own vehicle, a friend’s actually, to Argentina,” Tillman said in an email.

“After going through the quote process with a number of freight forwarders, I knew there had to be a better way. That’s when I met with my co-founder Jeff Wehner who had spent several years in supply chain at Apple and Nest. It turns out that my challenges were just a small version of what manufacturers and shippers face every day.”

Tillman adds that modern research and development cycles means that companies demand “a global supply chain that needs to stay predictable while becoming more agile.”

Haven helps facilitate that by providing a private marketplace where shippers can compare and purchase shipment capacity from its supply partners. The startup currently offers 600,000 sailings (or shipment schedules) from 1,500 ports, and received regularly updated rates and schedules from half of its top 20 carriers. Haven monetizes by charging a flat fee for every TEU, or a twenty-foot equivalent unit of capacity on a container ship.

The benefit of using Haven for service providers is that they can cut the cost of doing business by automating the quoting process. Haven’s strongest demand currently comes from Asia, Europe, and Latin America, and it plans to launch tools later this spring to make marketing easier for carriers.

While Haven works with a wide variety of companies, most of its demand comes from the apparel, electronics, and high-value agriculture industries.

Another startup that will offer similar services is Shipstr, a TechCrunch Disrupt finalist that wants to become the “Expedia of cargo shipping” and will launch in the Q4 2015. Tillman sees Haven’s current competitors as eforwarders, or companies that handle reservations, shipments, and payments. Those services, however, are also potential Haven clients.

“They’re unique participants in that they’re both able to buy and sell capacity,” says Tillman. “It’s critical that Haven remain a neutral third-party market that focuses on connecting shippers and suppliers instead of taking a position or getting involved in arbitrage.”