Freight forwarders often keep track of rates on spreadsheets they email to customers, but the pandemic has made that difficult because prices are constantly fluctuating. Freightify, a startup that refers to itself as the “Shopify for maritime freight,” provides white-label rate management and e-booking tools that freight forwarders can use to set up online stores, reducing the time they need to spend on administrative work.
The startup announced today it has raised $2.5 million in pre-Series A funding led by Nordic Eye Venture Capital, with participation from Tradeworks VC, Venture Catalysts, 9Unicorns and Blume Funders Fund. The round also included returning investor Vinod Kumar Talreja.
Freightify currently serves customers in 10 countries and plans to use part of its funding to expand into the United States and Europe. Its customers are freight forwarders who range in size from handling 250 shipments a year to more than 100,000.
The company was founded in 2016 by Raghavendran Viswanathan, its chief executive officer. Freightify started out as FreightBro, a freight marketplace, before its technology evolved into Freightify’s automated rate management system.
Freightify says the platform has handled more than $400 million in freight revenue for customers and corresponding gross merchandise volume of $2 billion.
Freightify can be integrated with freight forwarders’ existing transport management systems, which track the movement of cargo. Once freight forwarders set up an online store with Freightify, their customers use it to compare rates, ask for quotes, book online and track shipments. Freightify draws pricing data from the APIs of ocean carriers like Maersk, CMA-CGM and Evergreen or automates the entry of offline contract rates from carriers without APIs.
Viswanathan told TechCrunch that before the COVID-19 pandemic, freight rates were relatively static, so freight forwarders were able to share them with customers through spreadsheets. But the pandemic created a host of new challenges.
“The ocean freight transportation industry is going through a flux right now,” Viswanathan said. “The industry went into a downward spiral since the start of the pandemic. Freight rates have been hitting record numbers for four straight quarters,” with rates up 500% since the beginning of 2020.
Furthermore, other factors, like the Suez Canal blockage by the Ever Given and pandemic-related port delays, have made supply chains even less predictable.
Freightify solves some of these challenges by giving freight forwarders and their customers a live pricing platform like the ones used by travelers to compare airfares, showing real-time rates on a single screen.
“Freight forwarders are like the travel agents for the global trade,” Viswanathan said. “However, air travel is not as complicated as global trade. Supply chains require experts to manage cargo throughout the entire lifecycle and freight forwarders play a vital role in greasing the wheels.”
Freightify is working on a new product where its customers can share data with one another, making it easier to communicate across timezones while reducing the amount of emails they need to send. A closed group product pilot is expected to happen at the end of this year.
In a statement about the funding, Nordic Eye investment manager Ib Drachmann said it’s “exciting to follow a dynamic and ambitious organization that has great chances of making a huge digital impact in international freight forwarding.”