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© Artur Szczybylo

A new UK ‘digital’ forwarder, hoping to disrupt the industry’s “precarious” traditional methods, has received the ultimate accolade: investment from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

London-based Beacon, which styles itself as a “next-generation freight forwarding and supply chain finance company”, has raised $15m in series A funding, luring in not just Mr Bezos, but venture capital firm 8VC.

Beacon was founded in 2018 by two former Uber executives, Fraser Robinson, now CEO, and Dmitri Izmailov, COO. They were joined by former Amazon exec Pierre Martin, as chief technology officer.

Noting that the top 10 forwarders control just 43% of the market, Beacon said: “Many logistics incumbents have been slow to digitise and, with fewer than 30% of shippers being satisfied with the customer service they receive, the industry is ripe for disruption.”

Beacon claimed it has “an established customer base” and offers a full range of services across ocean, air and trucking, as well as supply chain finance – all managed on a single platform, using AI, data science, cloud and automation technologies.

It also claimed to solve one of the “the biggest challenges faced by importers today – cash flow”.

“Suppliers often demand payment before goods are shipped and, with months-long shipment times, importers need flexible finance to meet their working capital needs. To address this, Beacon offers qualifying customers financing within 72 hours, which also entitles them to shipping discounts.”

The new investment will be used to grow staff numbers, develop technology and expand its market, it said. One source said Beacon had already started poaching staff from another next-gen UK forwarder.

Mr Robinson said: “Our goal is to disrupt the trillion-dollar freight forwarding market by vastly improving the experience for importers and exporters with a more transparent and smarter shipping product.

“We also believe that our ability to offer supply chain finance can be transformative for our customers by allowing them to better control and manage their cash flow.

“With digitalisation accelerating globally as a result of Covid-19, we believe the future of the traditional freight forwarder is more precarious than ever.”

Beacon’s initial seed round saw investment from Uber founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and various venture capital firms.

The news follows that of a Turkish digital logistics start-up, Yolda, which last week announced it had raised $830,000 in its seed round. Specialising in the LTL and FTL sector, it said it would “automate transport process and seamlessly digitise logistics operations”.

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