BridgeLinx, a 9-month-old Lahore-headquartered startup that operates a digital freight marketplace, said on Tuesday it has raised $10 million in what is the largest seed financing round in Pakistan.
Harry Stebbings’ 20 VC, Josh Buckley’s Buckley Ventures and Indus Valley Capital co-led the startup’s financing round, which Salman Gul, co-founder and chief executive of BridgeLinx, told TechCrunch completed within weeks.
This is 20 VC and Buckley Ventures’ second lead investment in Pakistan in recent weeks following an $85 million round in quick-commerce startup Airlift. Indus Valley Capital, which recently also backed business-to-business marketplace Bazaar, has invested in all three of the recent high-profile investments in the South Asian country.
Wavemaker Partners, Quiet Capital, TrueSight Ventures, Soma Capital, Flexport, Magnus Rausing’s UNTITLED and founders of Convoy and Bazaar also participated in the round.
BridgeLinx is building a digital freight marketplace. The platform connects shippers — such as manufacturing companies, cement factories, textile companies — with truckers and private fleets.
It also provides its tech solutions to ensure documents validation on both ends, timely pickups, port operations and safety of cargo, said Gul, who previously worked at consultancy firm KPMG in Canada.
BridgeLinx has already onboarded thousands of carriers and is moving thousands of freight-loads each week for many large customers, he said.
As is true in India, Pakistan’s trucking system has a big inefficiency problem that continues to drag the economy.
One of the biggest problems faced by truckers is that once they have made a delivery, they have no work left during the return journey. So a truck delivering something to Lahore from Islamabad is likely not carrying something on its way back to the nation’s capital. This decades-old inefficiency continues to cost every stakeholder.
Startups like BridgeLinx are attempting to find ways to make this system more efficient, said Gul, who added that he has closely studied how Convoy, and India’s BlackBuck and Rivigo have expanded their businesses in the recent years.
BridgeLinx, like BlackBuck, currently operates on an asset-lite model — that is, it doesn’t own any vehicles. But Gul said there is benefit in replicating something from Rivigo, which owns its fleets. By having some trucks of its own, BridgeLinx will be able to ensure that vehicles on its platform are operating round the clock by having multiple drivers working in shifts.
“We will eventually have a hybrid of what BlackBuck and Rivigo offer,” he said.
The startup will deploy the fresh capital to expand to more verticals and broaden its tech offerings. It is also working on hiring more talent, he said.
“BridgeLinx has cracked the code for making end-to-end freight work in a hassle-free manner and therefore signed up some of the top businesses in Pakistan,” said Aatif Awan, managing partner at Indus Valley Capital, in a statement.
“We believe this team is well on its way to bringing unprecedented efficiencies to the country’s economy and are really excited to partner with them.”
On a side note, it’s fascinating to see Stebbings and Buckley emerge as the earliest investors to back startups in Pakistan at a time when several high-profile venture funds in Asia — including Sequoia Capital India, Accel and Lightspeed — are yet to make any move in the country. Arguably, it’s the best time to back startups in Pakistan. The internet penetration has grown considerably in the country in the past decade and scores of startups are beginning to build the railroads for commerce, logistics and payments.
Prosus has backed one startup in Pakistan — ride-hailing firm Bykea — and it recently made its first investment in Bangladesh — commerce startup ShopUp, which counts Sequoia as one of its earliest backers.