Y Combinator has become one of the key ways that startups from emerging markets get the attention of American investors. And arguably no clutch of companies has benefited more from Y Combinator’s attention than startups from emerging markets tackling the logistics market.
On the heels of the success the accelerator had seen with Flexport, which is now valued at over $1 billion — and the investment in the billion-dollar Latin American on-demand delivery company Rappi, several startups from Northern and Southern Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia have gone through the program to get in front of Silicon Valley’s venture capital firms. These are companies like Kobo360, NowPorts and, most recently, Trella.
The Egyptian company founded by Omar Hagrass, Mohamed el Garem and Pierre Saad already has 20 shippers using its service and is monitoring and managing the shipment of 1,500 loads per month.
“The best way we would like to think of ourselves is that we would like to bring more transparency to the industry,” says Hagrass.
Like other logistics management services, Trella is trying to consolidate a fragmented industry around its app that provides price transparency and increases efficiency by giving carriers and shippers better price transparency and a way to see how cargo is moving around the country.
If the model sounds similar to what Kobo360 and Lori Systems are trying to do in Nigeria and Kenya, respectively, it’s because Hagrass knows the founders of both companies.
Technology ecosystems in these emerging markets are increasingly connected. For instance, Hagrass worked with Kobo360 founder Obi Ozor at Uber before launching Trella. And through Trella’s existing investors (the company has raised $600,000 in financing from Algebra Ventures) Hagrass was introduced to Josh Sandler, the chief executive of Lori Systems.
The three executives often compare notes on their startups and the logistics industry in Northern and Southern Africa, Hagrass says.
While each company has unique challenges, they’re all trying to solve an incredibly difficult problem and one that has huge implications for the broader economies of the countries in which they operate.
For Hagrass, who participated in the Tahrir Square protests, launching Trella was a way to provide help directly to everyday Egyptians without having to worry about the government.
“It’s three times more expensive to transport goods in Egypt than in the U.S.,” says Hagrass. “Through this platform I can do something good for the country.”