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On-demand logistics company Lalamove gets $515 million Series E

By Catherine Shu

Lalamove will extend its network to cover more small Chinese cities after raising $515 million in Series E funding, the on-demand logistics company announced on its site. The round was led by Sequoia Capital China, with participation from Hillhouse Capital and Shunwei Capital. All three are returning investors.

According to Crunchbase data, this brings Lalamove’s total raised so far to about $976.5 million. The company’s last funding announcement was in February 2019, when it hit unicorn status with a Series D of $300 million.

Bloomberg reported last week that Lalamove was seeking at least $500 million in new funding at $8 billion valuation, or four times what it raised at least year.

Founded in 2013 for on-demand deliveries within the same city, Lalamove has since grown its business to include freight services, enterprise logistics, moving and vehicle rental. In addition to 352 cities in mainland China, Lalamove also operates in Hong Kong (where it launched), Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand. The company entered the United States for the first time in October, and currently claims about 480,000 monthly active drivers and 7.2 million monthly active users.

Part of its Series D had been earmarked to expand into India, but Lalamove was among 43 apps that were banned by the government, citing cybersecurity concerns.

In its announcement, Lalamove CEO Shing Chow said its Series E will be used to enter more fourth- and fifth-tier Chinese cities, adding “we believe the mobile internet’s transformation of China’s logistics industry is far from over.”

Other companies that have recently raised significant funding rounds for their logistics operations in China include Manbang and YTO.

Lalamove’s (known in Chinese as Huolala) Series E announcement said the company experienced a 93% drop in shipment volume at the beginning of the year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has experienced a strong rebound, with order volume up 82% year-over-year even before Double 11.

E-commerce fulfillment platform Shippit raises $22.2 million led by Tiger Global

By Catherine Shu

Shippit, a Sydney, Australia-based e-commerce logistics platform, will expand in Southeast Asia after closing a $30 million AUD (about $22.2 million USD) Series B led by Tiger Global, with participation from Jason Lenga. Founded in 2014, Shippit’s technology automates tasks related to order fulfillment, including finding the best carrier for an order, tracking packages and handling returns.

The company’s Series B, which brings its total raised since 2017 to $41 million AUD, will be used to expand in Southeast Asia and double its total team by hiring 100 new people, including 50 software developers.

Shippit says it currently handles five million deliveries a month in Australia from thousands of retailers, including Sephora, Target, Big W and Temple & Webster. The company launched in Singapore in May, followed by Malaysia in August.

“Southeast Asia is predicted to be the world’s largest e-commerce market in the next five years, and the addressable market for us in Southeast Asia alone is already five times the size of Australia and twice the size of the U.S.,” co-founder and co-chief executive officer William On told TechCrunch.

Shippit is considering expansion into the Philippines and Indonesia, too, and expects its Southeast Asian business to grow 100% year-over-year for the next three years at minimum.

Shippit’s Australian operations have also seen a threefold incraese in delivery volumes over the past twelve months, On added.

The increase in online sales combined with instability in the supply and logistics chain during COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of software like Shippit. E-commerce in the Asia-Pacific was already growing quickly before the pandemic hit, with Forrester forecasting online retail sales in the region to grow from $1.5 trillion in 2019 to $2.5 trillion in 2024, at a compound annual growth rate of 11.3%.

Other startups in the same space include ShipStation, EasyShip and Shippo. Shippit’s competitive strategy is to make online fulfillment as simple as possible for merchants, On said, with features like allowing the integration of online shopping carts with its allocation engine, which automatically picks the best carrier option for an order.

Singapore’s government launches blockchain innovation program with $8.9 million in funding

By Catherine Shu

A group of Singaporean government agencies is launching a new research program for blockchain technology with $12 million SGD (about $8.9 million USD) in funding. Called the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Programme (SBIP), the project is a collaboration between Enterprise Singapore, Infocomm Media Development Authority and the National Research Foundation Singapore. It has support from the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank and financial regulator.

SBIP’s funding comes from the National Research Foundation, and will be used to develop, commercialize and encourage the adoption of blockchain technology by companies. The program will first focus on the use of blockchain in trade, logistics and the supply chain.

According to a press release, the program “will engage close to 75 companies” over the next three years. It is already working with Dimuto, a global supply chain platform, to use blockchain technology to trace perishables with the goal of improving farmers’ creditworthiness.

The program’s other plans include finding ways to help blockchain systems and networks collaborate with one another, and growing the blockchain sector’s talent pool.

While companies ranging from startups to giants like IBM have been exploring the use of blockchain technology to create more transparent and cohesive supply chains for years, the issue has become more urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted vulnerabilities in international logistics and supply chains.

In a statement, Peter Ong, the chairman of Enterprise Singapore, said “COVID-19 has emphasized the need for trusted and reliable business systems in the new digital world. Blockchain technology helps embed trust in applications spanning logistics and supply chains, trade financing to digital identities and credentials.”

Singapore’s government is positioning itself as a partner to blockchain developers and companies, with the goal of becoming a “crypto hub” that is more open to the technology than other countries. Other blockchain-related government initiatives include the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Project Ubin. Launched in 2016, Project Ubin announced in July that its multi-currency payments network had proved its commercial potential after tests with more than 40 companies.

Florida-based logistics provider ShipMonk raises $290 million on the back of rising eCommerce demand

By Jonathan Shieber

Jan Bednar started ShipMonk with $70,000 in winnings from a string of student business plan competitions and launched the business that just closed on $290 million in new funding from a small warehouse with no air conditioning in the middle of Florida.

While Bednar’s new offices are still inside the warehouse his company operates, they now have air conditioning… and a $290 million financing round from Summit Partners to grow its business.

The Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based ShipMonk provides a slew of shipping and logistics services for small to medium-sized eCommerce businesses and right now — given the continuing COVID-19 pandemic — business is good.

We help SMBs and mid-market direct to consumer companies manage their supply chains. Help get their products from suppliers to facilities and connect with all of their sales channels including B2B … order management, transportation management, reverse logistics,” said Bednar. 

The company’s largest customers can book anywhere from $150 million to $250 million in revenue, but most of ShipMonk’s customers are actually small businesses pulling in between $1 million and $10 million on average.

It’s for these businesses that ShipMonk will fill its warehouses in Pennsylvania, California and Florida with 60,000 stock keeping units — managing around 50 different items for each customer it serves.

Bednar said ShipMonk would use the new cash to continue to upgrade its automation services and increase its staffing while also looking to expand internationally.

Profitable from the outset, ShipMonk just came off one of its best years, taking in upwards of $140 million in revenue. 

Bednar began the business alone, but quickly brought on co-founders Kevin Seitz, who handles marketing for the business, and Bosch Jares, a fellow native of the Czech Republic (like Bednar) who serves as the company’s chief technology officer.

The story of how Jares joined the business is indicative of the type of hustle that’s allowed Bednar to grow a booming tech and logistics business from the Ft. Lauderdale beaches.

It was the Florida weather that sold Jares, a college student from one of the Czech Republic’s top technical institutions, on the move to ShipMonk. Bednar had posted an internship opportunity to work (unpaid, but offering room and board) at his company on a college job board in the middle of January. The applications came pouring in, but it was Jares, a programmer who had been working with computers since age 14 who took the slot.

The rest… is ShipMonk history. Jares built the bulk of the backend for the company’s initial services spending nearly 20 hours a day coding.

 The thriftiness and hard work has won ShipMonk a booming business that has grown from 15,000 square feet of warehousing space into nearly 1 million square feet of storage space and a logistics service that spans the U.S. 

Timing for the new round couldn’t be better, as National Retail Federation estimates are banking on a 20% bump in new online sales — which could reach $202 billion this year. 

Black Friday alone raked in $9 billion in online purchases, according to data from Adobe Analytics provided by the company, and consumer spending is only going to continue to move online as the pandemic continues to threaten the health and safety of American consumers.  

ShipMonk’s technology integrates with shopping cart and marketplace platforms like Shopify to import orders across sales channels, which are then processed at the company’s warehouse locations. Customers can save up to 50% on their operational costs, according to the company.

“We believe ShipMonk truly demonstrates the power of a bootstrapped, durable growth mindset. Jan identified a significant gap in the market and, together with the ShipMonk team, has scaled the business in a deliberate and capital efficient manner to address that need. The results have been impressive,” said Christopher Dean, a Managing Director at Summit Partners who is taking a seat on the company’s board. 

 

Altana raises $7M to protect supply chains from disruptions, child labor

By Danny Crichton

Supply chains used to be one of those magical elements of capitalism that seemed to be designed by Apple: they just worked. Minus the occasional salmonella outbreak in your vegetable aisle, we could go about our daily consumer lives never really questioning how our fast-fashion clothes, tech gadgets, and medical supplies actually got to our shelves or homes.

Of course, a lot has changed over the past few years. Anti-globalization sentiment has grown as a political force, driving governments like the United States and the United Kingdom to renegotiate free trade agreements and attempt to onshore manufacturing while disrupting the trade status quo. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic placed huge stress on supply chains — with some entirely breaking in the process.

In short, supply chain managers suddenly went from one of those key functions that no one wants to think about, to one of those key functions that everyone thinks about all the time.

While these specialists have access to huge platforms from companies like Oracle and SAP, they need additional intelligence to understand where these supply chains could potentially break. Are there links in the supply chain that might be more brittle than at first glance? Are there factories in the supply chain that are on alert lists for child labor or environmental violations? What if government trade policy shifts — are we at risk of watching products sit in a cargo container at a port?

New York-headquartered Altana wants to be that intelligence layer for supply-chain management, bringing data and machine learning to bear against the complexity of modern capitalism. Today, the company announced that it has raised $7 million in seed financing led by Anne Glover of London-based Amadeus Capital Partners.

The three founders of the startup, CEO Evan Smith, CTO Peter Swartz, and COO Raphael Tehranian, all worked together on Panjiva, a global supply chain platform that was founded in 2006, funded by Battery Ventures a decade ago, and sold to S&P Global in early 2018. Panjiva’s goal was to build a “graph” of supply chains that would offer intelligence to managers.

That direct experience informs Altana’s vision, which in many ways is the same as Panjiva’s but perhaps revamped using newer technology and data science. Again, Altana wants to build a supply-chain knowledge graph, provide intelligence to managers, and create better resilience.

The difference has to do with data. “What we continually found when we were in the data sales business was that you are kind of stuck in that place in the value chain,” Smith said. “Your customers won’t let you touch their data, because they don’t trust you with it, and other proprietary data companies don’t let you work on and manage and transform their data.”

Instead of trying to be the central repository for all data, Altana is “operating downstream” from all of these data sources, allowing companies to build their own supply chain graphs using their own data and whatever other data sources they have access to.

The company sells into procurement offices, which are typically managed in the CFO’s office. Today, the majority of customers for Altana are government clients such as border control, where “the task is to pick the needles out of the haystack as the ship arrives and you’ve got to pick the illicit shipments from the safe ones and actually facilitate the lawful trade,” Smith said.

The company’s executive chairman is Alan Bersin, who is a former commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency currently working as a policy consultant for Covington & Burling, which has been one of the premier law firms on trade issues like CFIUS during the Trump administration.

Altana allows one-off investigations and simulations, but its major product goal is to offer real-time alerts that give supply chain managers substantive visibility into changes that affect their business. For instance, rather than waiting for an annual labor or environmental audit to find issues, Altana hopes to provide predictive capabilities that allow companies to solve problems much faster than before.

In addition to Amadeus, Schematic Ventures, AlleyCorp, and the Working Capital – The Supply Chain Investment Fund also participated.

Loadsmart raises $90 million to further consolidate its one-stop freight and logistics platform

By Darrell Etherington

Leading on-demand digital freight platform Loadsmart has raised a $90 million Series C funding round, led by funds under management by BlackRock and co-led by Chromo Invest. The funding will be used to continue to build out its platform to offer even more end-to-end logistics services to its freight customers, and the company says that it will be doing that in part through new collaboration with strategic investor TFI International, a leader in the logistics space, which also participated in this round.

In addition to TFI, the round also saw renewed investment from Maersk, a global oceanic shipping leader and one of Loadsmart’s strategic backers since its Series A round. The company says it has increased its revenues by 250% across 2020, while at the same time managing to keep its operating expenses flat. In a press release announcing the news, the company seemed to take indirect shots at competitors, including Uber Freight and Convoy, by noting that it has achieved its growth through “organic” means, rather than “by subsidizing its customers’ freight spend” through aggressive pricing.

Loadsmart offers booking for freight transportation across land, rail and through ports, all from a single online portal. It recently added the ability to ship partial truckloads, and its consistency brought in new strategic investors deeply involved in all aspects of the industry, including port management and overland shipping, which is likely contributing to its growth through ever-deeper industry insight.

On-demand delivery app Glovo is spinning up a B2B logistics unit for super speedy urban delivery

By Natasha Lomas

Spain’s on-demand delivery app, Glovo, is gearing up to be able to deliver a much wider range of products within a 30-minute timeframe by rolling out a b2b logistics play — drawing on a network of city centre warehouses that it plans to massively expand over the next twelve months.

It’s just announced the launch of a new business unit, called Q-Commerce — the ‘Q’ standing for quick — to accelerate development of a b2b service that will see it offer to stock third parties’ products in its warehouses and have the couriers that operate on its on-demand platform make deliveries for other businesses too — offering what it bills as a “turn-key” logistics solution for businesses of all sizes to underpin their own online stories. 

It is already working with retail brands like Unilever, Nestle and L’Oreal and supermarkets including Walmart, Carrefour and Kaufland to stock and sell their goods from its network of so-called ‘dark stores’ — which are currently located in Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon and Milan — offering users there speedy delivery for selected groceries and other items under its ‘Glovo Market’ brand (currently with the carrot of free 24-hour delivery and no minimum spend). But it’s aiming to ramp up across the board — expanding the reach of its Glovo Market offer to more cities and launching a b2b offer to power others’ online stores — saying it plans to have more than 100 dark stores up and running by the end of 2021.

Commenting in a statement, Daniel Alonso, global director of Q-Commerce at Glovo — and former ecommerce director at Walmart — said: “With shops closing down and lockdowns globally, consumers now want and expect more items than ever to be delivered to their doorstep. With this has brought new demands — it is no longer a case of waiting 24-48 hours for a delivery. Rather, the expectation for this is now a matter of minutes. At Glovo we’re committed to thirty minutes or less with all products available on Q-Commerce. As we continue to expand our enhanced offering, we’re excited to launch Q-Commerce in other parts of Spain and the rest of Europe, Eastern Europe and Africa over the next 12 months.”

Glovo says it wants Q-Commerce to power delivery of a wide range of products — not just meals and food from restaurants and supermarkets but anything sold in toy, music, book, flower, beauty and pharmacy stores.

There are some obvious gaps in that list: Clothes and shoe stores, for example, which are more likely to have their own online shopping infrastructure already. Plus clothes shopping is also more complex — given the propensity for returns when items don’t fit or suit. But it looks like Glovo is going after almost everything else.

Alonso said Glovo currently has 22 dark stores up and running. “Popular items are anything from fresh fruit and vegetables, drinks, flowers, personal care, housekeeping products, pet food as well as any main convenience brands from companies like Unilever, Nestle and P&G,” he told TechCrunch.

“In Glovo Supermarket, we currently manage around 2,000 unique items but this also depends on the dark store, where some have more or less items depending on population coverage and geographical location.”

Glovo says its Glovo Market service has more than 50,000 active users, at this point — touting the delivery of around two orders every minute. It also says it’s delivered more than 12 million “multi-category” orders globally to date, while in Spain the number of orders for grocery items doubled this year to more than 1 million. Its overall growth rate in 2019 was more than 300% year-on-year, it added.

The Deliveroo and Uber Eats rival has always touted itself as a ‘deliver everything’ app because it offers the option for users to request anything (within bike-able reason) be brought to your door by one of its gigging couriers, even though the majority of the business involves biking fast food around cities.

Meal deliveries were making up three-quarters of its revenues at the start of this year — but Glovo has ambitions to beat Amazon at the urban convenience game of delivering all sorts of stuff really, really fast. And it’s got investors on board with the plan. Last year it raised a $169M Series D and a $166M Series E in quick succession.

It’s further beefed up its balance sheet this (pandemic) year by offloading its LatAm ops — selling them to European rival Delivery Hero for $272M — which means it’s concentrating its market focus on Southern and Eastern Europe (it also has a small footprint in sub-Saharan Africa, in Kenya and Ivory Coast).

Presumably it sees that footprint as a better fit for the ‘get stuff now’ convenience push it’s making with Q-Commerce combined with a network of its own city center warehouses (aka dark stores). Though last year it also said it wanted to work on building a path toward profitability over the next year+ so fierce competition in LatAm may have pushed those markets out of reach.

Glovo says it has more than 9 million monthly active users, at this point — and 55,000 “associated partners” globally; aka the gig workers who do the heavy lifting of making actual deliveries for its platform.

The startup is facing ongoing legal uncertainty in its home market over its classification of ‘glovers’ (as it calls couriers) as ‘self-employed’. Spain’s supreme court recently found a rider to be in a laboural relationship with the platform — and any move to force the business to reclassify the thousands of couriers it relies upon in the country would radically rework its push for profitability, to put it mildly.

This report has been updated with additional comment

Indian logistics startup Xpressbees raises $110 million

By Manish Singh

Xpressbees, an Indian logistics firm that works with several e-commerce firms in the country, said on Monday it has raised $110 million in a new financing round as online shopping booms in the world’s second largest internet market.

The Pune-headquartered startup’s Series E financing round was led by private equity firms Investcorp, Norwest Venture Partners and Gaja Capital, the five-year-old startup said. Xpressbees, which concluded its Series D round three years ago, has raised $175.8 million to date, according to research firm Tracxn. The new round valued the startup at over $350 million.

Xpressbees helps more than 1,000 customers — including financial and e-commerce services giant Paytm, social commerce startup Meesho, eyewear seller Lenskart, phone maker Xiaomi, online pharmacy NetMeds, and online marketplace Snapdeal — deliver their products across the country. It has presence in over 2,000 cities and towns, and it processes over 2.5 million orders a day — up from about 600,000 daily orders last year.

“We have been truly impressed by their strong customer centricity and capital efficiency which has resulted in exceptional feedback from top players in the e-commerce sector!” said Niren Shah, Managing Director and Head of Norwest Venture Partners in India, in a statement.

Xpressbees started its journey within Firstcry, an e-commerce for baby products, in 2012. But in 2015, it became an independent company with Amitava Saha, co-founder and chief operating officer of FirstCry, moving out of FirstCry to become chief executive of Xpressbees. Supam Maheshwari, who co-founded Firstcry and serves its chief executive, is the other co-founder of Xpressbees.

The startup said it plans to deploy the fresh capital to further automate its hubs and sorting centres, and expand its delivery footprint to cover the entire country. “ I am delighted to see the impact we are making in the logistics ecosystem in the country,” said Saha in a statement

At stake is India’s growing logistics industry, which NVP’s Shah estimated to be worth $200 billion. “We continue to believe that new age technology led logistics players such as Xpressbees will continue to play a pivotal role both in the growth of the e-commerce sector in India,” he added.

E-commerce sales, which account for less than 5% of all retail sales in India, skyrocketed during the pandemic after New Delhi enforced a two-month nationwide lockdown. During their festival sales last month, Amazon India and Walmart-owned Flipkart reported record surge in their sales. The firms have created over 150,000 seasonal jobs to accommodate the growing demand of orders. Xpressbees works with over 30,000 delivery staff.

Xpressbees competes with a handful of established firms and startups including SoftBank-backed Delhivery, which became a unicorn last year, and Ecom Express, which has presence in about 2,400 Indian cities and towns. 

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