Vector.ai raises $15 million to tackle growing productivity crisis in international freight forwarding
- Founded in 2017, Vector.ai automates arduous tasks and processes that are necessary to move goods around the world on behalf of importers and exporters
- $15 million investment round led by Bessemer Venture Partners – the US venture capital giant behind successful investments in LinkedIn, Pinterest and Shopify
- Vector.ai addresses the growing global trade productivity crisis, with all operational staff at freight forwarders losing billions of hours to manual information gathering
- In 2021 alone, Vector.ai has signed up several top-10 global freight forwarders, and it has tripled month-on-month revenue since the start of the year
LONDON, UK – 14th September 2021: Vector.ai has raised $15 million in a Series A funding round as the company seeks to tackle the growing productivity crisis in international freight forwarding, now a $199 billion market.
The funding will enable the company, which uses machine learning to transform cumbersome and monotonous processes, to accelerate its international expansion plans and build on its reputation as the automated system of choice for the world’s biggest freight forwarders.
Freight forwarders globally, through no fault of their own, lose billions of hours to cumbersome and time-consuming administrative tasks as they process billions of shipments every year. It’s estimated that operational staff at freight forwarders spend one third of each day hunting through customer emails, attachments and legacy computer systems, which is distracting them from higher-value activities and limiting freight forwarders’ ability to scale effectively.
Vector.ai uses machine learning to automate these inefficient and error-prone processes, transforming workforce productivity and eliminating previously siloed workstreams. From straight-through processing of accounts payables, including bill pay, audit and reconciliation, to automated customs declarations and import/export documentation workflows, Vector.ai’s platform enables workers to offload basic tasks and focus on building relationships with customers and suppliers. It also gives freight forwarders greater visibility into ongoing operations, improving collaboration and further increasing productivity.
Demand for Vector.ai has skyrocketed since the release of its first Beta product in late 2020, with the company implementing its technology across Europe, Asia, Australasia, South Africa and the US. In 2021 alone, it has signed up a range of customers – from multi-national to SME freight forwarders – in 20 countries and month-on-month revenue has tripled. Customers include Fracht, EFL, NNR Global Logistics, The Scarbrough Group, Steam Logistics and Navia Freight, as well as several of the world’s top-10 freight forwarders.
James Coombes, Co-Founder and CEO of Vector.ai, comments:
“Most employees within freight forwarders spend the majority of their time communicating with the 10-25 different entities that might be associated with a given shipment and coordinating freight movement and documentation. Communication usually runs through email and attachments, so freight forwarders spend countless hours sorting through documents and manually copying data into a Transportation Management System (TMS), their core system of record. But they’re spending far too much time gathering data rather than analysing it, and they’re using outdated tools which are no longer fit for the complexity of today’s operational and logistical demands.
“What’s more, as the volume of freight continues to rise globally – and with the added burden of Brexit and pandemic disruptions such as the recent port closure in China – freight forwarders are facing staffing shortages, steep wage increases, and shipping delays that continue to cost companies money in lost revenue and spoiled goods. They cannot afford to keep wasting time on low-level processing, which is why we created the technology to automate basic tasks. Over the last three years, our team of experts have been building a platform designed to embed machine learning across multiple data sources and functionalities. We are increasing people’s productivity at work through actionable automation. I don’t see any freight forwarder being able to operate competitively in the next few years without technology like ours.”
The funding round is led by Bessemer Venture Partners – the US venture capital giant behind successful investments including LinkedIn, Pinterest and Shopify – and is joined by existing investors Dynamo Ventures and Episode 1. Vector.ai is one of Bessemer Venture Partners’ first investments in the UK as part of its continued expansion plans in Europe.
Mike Droesch, Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, says:
“Vector.ai is one of the early leaders in an emerging category of freight forwarding workflow automation and digitisation tools. It has built an intuitive and industry-focused product – which is already winning over some of the largest freight forwarders – and a team that can deliver outstanding execution. We look forward to helping them continue their mission to transform this operations-intensive industry.”
Founded in 2017, Vector.ai is led by an experienced team of machine learning, product and industry experts. CEO James Coombes has more than ten years’ experience in building and leading customer-facing teams in financial services, commodities and international trade. His Co-Founder Nisarg Mehta, the company’s CTO, is a computer engineering and machine learning specialist, and has worked within leading research teams at Cambridge University and Microsoft Research.
“The last 18 months have shown just how tenuous all the various interconnected systems within freight can be,” comments Jon Bradford, partner at Dynamo Ventures. “Any technology that removes complexities and streamlines the operations side that underpins the shipping industry has massive potential to eliminate the supply chain issues we’ve all experienced in one way or another during the pandemic. That is exactly why we’re excited about what Vector.ai is building.”
Adrian Lloyd, Founding Partner at Episode 1 Ventures: “We saw great potential in James and Nisarg when we led their seed round and our high expectations have been exceeded. Such deep tech investments tend to have a slow gestation period for us, but Vector.ai has had tremendous commercial traction in a short space of time, which is testament to the vision, technical skills and commercial ability of the team. We are thrilled to have Bessemer Venture Partners lead the Series A – a world class investor for a world class team.”
EFL Digital team: “We pride ourselves on being a technology driven freight forwarder. Vector.ai matches our digital ambitions. Its platform automates core export processes across our entire lifecycle, including pre-alerts, accounts payable and commercial invoices. This would enable us to scale our business fast, without needing to grow our headcount. We hope to make both time and cost savings as well as improve customer services throughout the organisation.”
Founded in 2017, Vector.ai removes the roadblocks to amazing freight forwarding operations. Created from a fundamental belief that freight forwarding staff should spend their time on the things that make a difference – like building better relationships with customers and suppliers – Vector.ai’s innovative platform enables workers to offload many of the basic processes involved in a shipment lifecycle, such as automating accounts payable, customs clearance, pre-alerts and more. Vector.ai makes freight forwarding operations truly scalable.
Vector.ai is the automated operating system of choice for the world’s biggest freight forwarders. Its technology is used by a range of multi-national to SME freight forwarders across Europe, Australasia, South Africa and the US. Customers include Fracht, EFL, NNR Global Logistics, The Scarbrough Group, Steam Logistics and Navia Freight, as well as several of the world’s top-10 freight forwarders. Sign up at Vector.ai.
About Bessemer Venture Partners
Bessemer Venture Partners is the world’s most experienced early-stage venture capital firm. With a portfolio of more than 200 companies, Bessemer helps visionary entrepreneurs lay strong foundations to create companies that matter, and supports them through every stage of their growth. The firm has 130 IPOs, including Pinterest, Shopify, Twilio, Yelp, LinkedIn, Skype, LifeLock, PagerDuty, DocuSign, Wix, MindBody, and Fiverr. Bessemer’s team of investors and partners are positioned all over the world in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Tel Aviv, Bangalore, and Beijing. Follow @BessemerVP and learn more at bvp.com.
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