Photo: Ship Angel

Ship Angel, a new start-up from Kontainers co-founder Graham Parker, has raised more than $5m to expand its ocean and air freight rate management platform.

The platform incorporates two “ground-breaking” AI-powered solutions, designed to optimise BCO workflows Contract Amendment Guard and Invoice Audit.

Ship Angel said that, despite the importance of managing shipping rates, workflows continued to be manually processed, leaving scope for “substantial” problems, with “under-served” BCOs experiencing more than 30% error rates on invoices.

The start-up’s Amendment Guard tool communicates between carriers, forwarders and shippers to identify changing surcharges, free time and transit time changes. Invoice Audit allows BCOs to store bookings digitally where they are matching with exact dates and rates. The AI flags inconsistencies, reducing the error rate and saving countless hours of manual labour, said the company.

Mr Parker told The Loadstar while AI “was not faultless”, it solved a real-world problem.

“It can read any rate sheet from any carrier or forwarder. Today other players use BPO centres in India to do this and some of them have reached out to us to try and license our technology.

“It is working every minute of every day making a difference, and we measure improvements daily, so while it’s not without ‘hallucinations’, these are going down and the level of progress is really something.”

Mr Parker had originally said he would not seeking to raise funds – but now has $5.5m in Series A funding, co-led by Glasswing Ventures and Newark venture partners, with participation from Bienville Capital, Socii Capital and Plug and Play.

Mr Parker told The Loadstar: “We are seeing really significant momentum and, coupled with the opportunity to build software much faster and cheaper than before, we thought it made sense to raise outside capital, build a really big business and move even faster, unconstrained. The funding climate has changed a lot and not many companies are raising money, so when we got a chance to work with some top-tier east coast US venture capitalists, we decided it was the way to go.”

Ship Angel has grown from two people, a year ago, to 33, 75% of whom are in engineering and design. And Mr Parker claimed “dozens of brands are using Ship Angel across every continent, including Fortune 500 brands”.

He said: “Our goal is to hit $1m in revenue this year. We want to build a really big business, the market is gigantic with a million shippers in the US, and millions more around the world. We want to built a category winner here.”

Mr Parker said he was looking to make Ship Angel world class.

“We have the tailwinds of AI and an industry that on the shipper side is still increasing budgets for digital tools. My experience is also helpful having built a business and delivered, I want to swing for the fences this time and create a category winner. We build world class software products, which is rare in this industry, and we move fast – within a year we are going multi product.”

He added: “We are blessed with the timing, as it’s significantly cheaper to build software than it was a decade ago.”

Mr Parker found fame with his Kontainers ocean freight management platform, which was sold to Descartes in 2020. While it was billed at the time as having sold for $12m, according to Descartes annual report the purchase price “was approximately $5.2m, net of cash acquired, which was funded from cash on hand”. It added: “Additional contingent consideration of up to $6m in cash is payable if certain revenue performance targets are met by Kontainers in the two years following the acquisition.”

Kontainers most recent financial results, ending on 10 June 2020 when it was sold, showed a loss of some £2m on turnover of £870,000.

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