Which maritime tech companies closed the biggest investment rounds of 2019?
Year on year venture investment activity was down in 2019, but a number of large funding rounds closed and the average deal size increased versus 2018. The maritime market is beginning to mature; after years of seed and small venture rounds dominating funding activity, a few breakout stars are beginning to scale and have enough traction to warrant taking significant amounts of venture money.
These five companies closed the maritime industry’s biggest venture rounds of the year. Though trade facilitation dominates, this list demonstrates that technology that can enhance operational efficiency, whether in ports or at sea, is being taken seriously by investors.
It is impossible to discuss the industry’s notable investments without discussing Flexport. Founded in 2013, the Silicon Valley based scaleup brings together technology, infrastructure, and expertise to deliver a superior freight forwarding experience. Flexport connects all the parties in global trade; importers, exporters, trucking companies, ocean carriers, airlines, customs agencies, and port terminals, through a single, secure cloud-based platform they call the “Operating System for Global Trade”.
In addition to providing software, the company is investing cross-docking warehouses near all major global population centres, each connected by high-frequency air, ocean, truck, and rail freight line-hauls in a global hub-spoke network.
Europe’s answer to Flexport is Berlin based Freighthub. The digital freight forwarder was founded in 2016 and raised £53m in May last year. Their aim is to create seamless, best-in-class freight forwarding experiences for their customers around the world by handling the entire process through a single intuitive platform.
Unlike Flexport, Freighthub has no physical assets, focusing instead on building a single user interface to cover the entire freight process chain from quotation, booking, document management, track and trace all the way to proactive exception handling and supply chain data analytics. Freighthub now has over 1,500 clients and offices in Hamburg, Hong Kong, Porto, and Cologne.
The biggest innovation in world trade during the 20th century was the invention of the container. Millions of tonnes of cargo are moved in these steel boxes each year but there is no built-in way of tracking the location and condition of a dry container as it moves around the world.
Over a three year R&D programme, Traxens developed the technology required to produce cost effective, rugged, autonomous IoT devices that turn regular containers into smart containers. The scaleup, which counts Maersk, CMA CGM, and MSC as investors, is now capable of delivering exhaustive, precise, and timely information on containers to stakeholders in the supply chain. This allows clients to reduce costs, optimise their assets, and offer premium services to shippers and BCOs.
Rombit builds systems that quickly improve safety, security, and operational efficiency across maritime services providers, ports, terminals, and petrochemical plants. Their solution connects industrial IoT devices with user friendly cloud dashboards to help clients solve problems including schedule optimisation, security, worker safety, and port security.
With a slew of clients from across their home city of Antwerp including the massive MPET container terminal, chemical handling group Vopak, and pilotage services provider Brabo, the team is now focusing on scaling up by acquiring more international clients and expanding in to Industry 4.0.
Nautilus Labs is attempting to solve the multi-billion dollar problem of wasted fuel in the global shipping fleet. Up to 30% of the industry’s $100bn fuel spend can be saved through more efficient vessel operations according to the New York startup. Nautilus combines multiple sources of operational and contextual data in real time, and leverages machine learning and collaborative tools to help clients to assess fleet performance and continuously improve voyage economics.
With backers including the venture arm of Microsoft and partnerships in place with industry leaders including Inmarsat and Teekay LNG, Nautilus is poised to rapidly scale at a time when the industry desperately needs new efficiency solutions.
Want to learn more about the maritime venture landscape?
From navigation to chartering, bunkers to freight forwarding, digitalisation has touched every facet of the shipping industry in the last decade. As the industry’s transformation from analogue to digital steps into higher gear, it is increasingly catching the attention of entrepreneurs and investors looking for big problems to solve.
In Shiptech 2020: The state of venture investment activity in the maritime industry, we explore 2019’s maritime startup activity, including:
- An overview of venture funding
- The notable investments made in the year
- New entrants to the market
- The technology trends to watch in 2020
You can download a free copy of the 27 page report below.