Portcast gets $3.2M to create more transparent and sustainable supply

A photo of Portcast founders Dr. Lingxiao Xia and Nidhi Gupta

Portcast founders Dr. Lingxiao Xia and Nidhi Gupta

For many manufacturers and freight forwarders, managing logistics is still a very manual process: tracking a shipment with a call or online lookup and entering that data into an Excel spreadsheet. Portcast, which describes itself as a “next generation logistics operating system”, makes the process more efficient by collecting data from myriad sources and not only tracking shipments in real time, but also predicting Like major weather events that can affect its progress. Issues related to tides and epidemics.

The company today announced that it has raised $3.2 million in pre-Series A funding led by Newtown Partners through the Imperial Venture Fund, with participation from Wavemaker Partners, TMV, Innoport and returning investor SGInnovate. Based in Singapore, Portcast serves customers in Asia and Europe, and will use part of its funding to expand into more markets.

Co-founders Nidhi Gupta and Dr. Lingxiao Xia met at Entrepreneur First in Singapore. Prior to launching Portcast, Gupta, its Chief Executive Officer, held a leadership role across Asia at DHL. During that time, he realized that the logistics sector’s “inefficiency is an opportunity to really build something in this space.” Dr. Xia, who holds a PhD in machine learning and a background in product development and cloud computing, “was a great complementary fit” and is now Portcast’s chief technology officer.

Portcast says it tracks more than 90% of the volume of world trade that travels by sea carriers, and 35% of air cargo, and can anticipate demand for 30,000 trade routes. Sources include geospatial data, such as satellite data, where the ships are, what speed and direction they are moving, which ports they are headed, wind speed and wave height. Portcast also looks at economic patterns (for example, the impact of Brexit on United Kingdom ports, and how vaccine rollouts around the world change airline and ship efficiencies), weather events such as typhoons and disruptions such as Suez Canal blockages.

Other data sources include proprietary transactional data from customers, including large shipping companies and freight forwarders.

“The challenge for us is how do we let all this data speak in one language,” Gupta told . “This data is coming in at different frequencies, different granularities, so how do you consolidate it and make sure the machine can start to understand and interpret it.”

Portcast’s two main solutions are intelligent container visibility for real-time tracking of shipment containers, and forecasting and demand management that tracks booking patterns. Portcast does not use IoT to track containers because it is cost-prohibitive to have devices in each one, but is working with IoT providers on hybrid solutions—for example, putting a tracking device in a container and then Use that data to help you manage balance shipments.

The startup aims to make predictions that help companies improve the efficiency of their operations, and reduce their reliance on manual processes. “Every single week there are logistics operators with hundreds of cargoes coming in, they are leaving and checking it manually every day. It goes in an excel sheet and that is what the downstream operations plan is based on,” said Gupta.

But the COVID-19 pandemic “created an urgent need for digitization, and it has transformed supply chains from cost work to getting products on time, so we work with some of the largest manufacturers as well as freight forwarders.” do,” he added. For example, a food and beverage company in Europe sent a shipment to Taipei, a journey that usually takes about 70 days. But it took more than three months to arrive. Portcast was able to track the shipment as it moved to various ports and ships, helping customers understand what caused the delay.

“In addition to just estimating when a potential disruption will occur, we are able to tell and say there is a delay of X days because there will likely be a thunderstorm or transshipment, and this empowers them as they continue to ramp up their trucking and warehousing teams. Can tell. How many containers are going to arrive,” said Gupta. “It was port charges, detention charges and hours spent manually checking various company websites and trying to figure out what happened to their supply chain.” reduces the number of

One of Portcast’s other logistics tech startups that seeks to fine-tune supply chain visibility is that it launched from the Asia-Pacific region, where ships typically pass through multiple ports and are subjected to tropical storms and typhoons-like conditions. Have to work around frequent weather events. The technology developed to make short trips between Singapore and Malaysia (for example) is also applied to portcasts to Asia and Europe, or to transcontinental routes such as Asia and the United States.

“Our technology is on a global scale and this allows us to compete against other players in this market,” Gupta said. “The other thing that sets us apart is that we work not only with manufacturers, but also with shipping companies, logistics companies and cargo airlines, and this allows us to create a network effect. There’s a really strong synergy between what’s happening in sea freight and air freight, and that allows us to understand patterns in the industry and creates leverage for any other company that comes on our platform.

Portcast’s future plans include moving from predictive AI to include prescriptive AI within the next two quarters. Right now, the platform can tell companies what’s causing the delay, but the prescriptive AI will also enable it to make automated suggestions. For example, it can tell customers which ports are faster, other ships and modes of transportation that can help them get around a disruption and optimize their capacity.

The company also plans to launch Order Visibility, a feature that will track containers filled with a specific item, by the end of this year. Consumer prices for many different types of products are rising, partly because of the burden of supply chains. By enabling companies to track specific SKUs in real-time, Portcast can not only help items arrive more quickly, but also show how much CO2 each shipment emits.

“Carbon offsetting or carbon trading can only happen if you have an idea of ​​how much you’re actually spending, and that’s part of what we can be involved in,” Gupta said. “For example, by allowing predictability if you will arrive early, this is an opportunity for the shipping company to slow down and save fuel such as bunker fuel, which not only brings huge savings, but also reduces CO2 emissions. does less.

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