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Portcast secures $3.2m, eyes global expansion

Logistics startup Portcast will use its pre-Series A funding to expand globally and bolster its cloud-based service with prescriptive AI capabilities

Logistics startup Portcast has secured $3.2m in pre-Series A financing led by Newtown Partners – via the Imperial Venture Fund – with participation from Wavemaker Partners, TMV and Innoport, which join existing investors SGInnovate, among others.

The capital will go towards international expansion, doubling the team size and product enhancement, in particular, moving from predictive artificial intelligence (AI) to prescriptive AI and launching new product features such as order-level visibility and scenario planning.

The Singapore-based company enables freight forwarders and manufacturers to achieve real-time visibility, reduce operational costs and improve customer experience, thereby improving profit margins.

It does this by accurately predicting the estimated time of arrivals of over 90% of ships globally and forecasting demand for more than 30,000 trade routes – both air and sea – daily through a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform and application programming interfaces (APIs).

“Global supply chains are under extreme pressure with record delays, unprecedented congestion at ports and constrained capacities. This has led to ridiculously high transportation costs which are being transferred to the end-consumer, yet service reliability remains low,” said Nidhi Gupta, CEO and co-founder of Portcast.

“We believe that companies with predictive visibility on cargo movements have a significantly higher preparedness to downstream planning and customer service, and we have already seen the impact of this with reductions in overall port fees by 20% and manual work by 80% for our customers,” she added.

During her 10 years in the logistics industry in senior leadership roles, Gupta realised the critical importance – and absence – of technology in logistics to enable efficiency. This led her to set up Portcast with her co-founder, Lingxiao Xia, to transform global shipping, an industry still lagging in digitisation and sustainability.

Since its launch in 2018, Portcast has already amassed a list of freight forwarding and manufacturing customers across the world and predicts more than 300,000 shipment events daily.

“The cloud-based technology has the ability to map out the cascading effects of disruptions such as Typhoon In-fa and the Suez Canal congestion, allowing forwarders and shippers to respond and react more effectively in such scenarios,” Gupta added.

Llew Claasen, managing partner at Newtown Partners, noted that Portcast has proven its technology not just in the long-haul routes, but also in multi-port voyages and emerging economies, which are harder to predict.

“We believe the technology has global replicability in automating logistics workflows and digitisation. This aligns with our vision of backing innovative logistics startups and creates synergies in the European and African trading routes,” he said.

The digitisation of the logistics industry is currently at an inflection point. According to Gartner, 50% of product-centric supply chains will invest in real-time transportation visibility platforms by 2023.

Doing so not only creates greater visibility over supply chains, but also explainability and scenarios that allow operators to decide what actions to take, which is where the next features of Portcast are being developed. These include prescriptive AI, which can suggest alternative ships, routes or transportation options that could be used to bring delayed cargo back on track.

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