Delivery, drones and DHL

Locus (not to be confused with this Locus) is one of those names that’s been popping up a lot in the news — and this roundup — over the past year. Last time we spoke to the Massachusetts company, it was around a sizable raise — $150 million to be nearly precise. That effectively valued the company as a unicorn.

Core to the company’s successes are its partnerships (as is the case with any robotics fulfillment company). DHL has been a big (or the biggest) name in the mix since 2017. Amid pandemic lockdowns, the logistic giant signed up for 1,000 robots last year and, as of yesterday, is doubling that number.

Image Credits: Locus Robotics

DHL is really committing to robotics here. At last count, it said it had deployed around 200,000 across the U.S. alone, which puts its right around the same number as Amazon (which admittedly, hasn’t updated that figure lately). Of course, the big difference there is that Amazon is primarily pulling from in-house systems — perhaps Locus is a prime acquisition target?

The robotics company’s CEO shot down that suggestion when I spoke to him earlier this year, stating, “We have no interest in being acquired. We think we can build the most and greatest value by operating independently. There are investors that want to invest in helping everyone that’s not named ‘Amazon’ compete.”

When it comes to companies with deep pockets, though, I never say never.

Also out this morning, is a good size round from Realtime Robotics. The Boston-based company is one of a number of startups looking to streamline the process of installing and deploying industrial robotics. The $31.4 million Series A includes participation from (deep breath)  HAHN Automation, SAIC Capital Management, Soundproof Ventures , Heroic Ventures, SPARX Asset Management, Omron Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, Scrum Ventures and Duke Angels.

Image Credits: E-Nano

There’s no such thing as a small raise, only a small…I’m not sure. Honestly, I didn’t really thing this one all the way through before I started typing. Anyway, here’s an early-stage, pre-seed from a London based startup called E-Nano. The company has developed a modular robotics system for monitoring sports turf.

Per a press release on the £100,000 ($141,000) raise, “These robots will eventually be able to assess agricultural land and contribute to landowners growing more sustainably. The team aims to implement 5G connectivity into their robots and platform, using this raise to deliver more immediate, real-time data with high throughput.”

 

Some good news for DJI comes courtesy of The Hill, which reports that the Pentagon has effectively cleared the drone giant in an audit. DJI was one of the names caught up in all of the flagging of Chinese companies that’s occurred over the past couple of years (read: during the Trump administration), which has severely kneecapped brands like Huawei and ZTE. DJI was never banned for sale outright in the States, but this is still a pretty massive relief for its ability to operate in such a large market.

The filing notes that it found “no malicious code or intent” from the company, going so far as “recommend[ing] use by government entities and forces working with US services.” Government use is a nice bonus there.

The company took a victory lap in a comment provided to TechCrunch, noting, “This U.S. government report is the strongest confirmation to date of what we, and independent security validations, have been saying for years – DJI drones are safe and secure for government and enterprise operations.”

Starship delivery robots

Starship delivery robots at UCLA campus on January 15th, 2021. Image Credits: Starship/Copyright Don Liebig/ASUCLA

Starship Technologies, meanwhile, snagged a high-profile name to lead the delivery robotics firm. Former Alphabet Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth will be taking the same title at his new company.

Incidentally, Starship is one of a trio of companies I’ll be speaking with during my delivery robotics panel (also Nuro and Gatik) at the upcoming TC Sessions: Mobility. We also just announced my second panel, which will be exploring a pretty vibrant category in automotive.

Image Credits: Ford/Agility Robotics

Max Bajracharya of TRI (Toyota), Mario Santillo of Ford and Ernestine Fu of Hyundai Motor Group will be discussing their respective employers’ approach to robotics beyond manufacturing and autonomy. They’re all doing really interesting stuff, and Hyundai, of course, is getting ready to close its acquisition of Boston Dynamics.

Should be fun. Register here.

#dhl, #dji, #ford, #hyundai, #locus, #robotics, #robotics-roundup, #starship-technologies, #tc-sessions-mobility, #toyota

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DHL will deploy 2,000 Locus Robotics units by 2022

DHL today announced that it will be expanding an ongoing partnership with Locus Robotics. Last year, the logistics giant announced plans to deploy 1,000 of the Massachusetts-based startup’s robots. The number is effectively doubling to 2,000 by 2022 — a deal that would make DHL Locus’ largest customer by a wide margin.

The two have been piloting robotics together since 2021, but interest in automation has picked up significantly during the pandemic. The reasons are myriad, but among them are the fact that robots can help keep things running amid a shutdown and are less likely to serve as a potential vector during a global pandemic.

DHL’s Global Supply Chain COO/CIO Markus Voss breaks down the figures accordingly:

So far, more than 500 assisted picking robots are already in industrial use in our warehouses in the USA, Europe and the UK. By the end of 2021, another 500 robots are to be added in a total of more than 20 locations. The collaborative picking technology has clearly proven its effectiveness and reliability in modern warehousing. More locations have already been identified with concrete implementation roadmaps for the remaining robots, which we will deploy in 2022. However, the overall potential for assisted picking robots in our DHL warehouses is much bigger, so we are confident that we will meet the targets we have set ourselves together with Locus Robotics.

Locus is one of several DHL robotics partners. In late 2018, the company announced a planned $300 million investment in the category, and as of last year, it said it had deployed more than 200,000 robots in warehouses across the U.S. It’s a figure that rivals — or event bests — that of Amazon’s robotics efforts.

In addition to these deals, Locus has seemingly had little issue shoring up cash support. In February, it announced a $150 million Series E that valued the company at $1 billion.

#dhl, #locus, #locus-robotics, #robotics

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Ivorian startup Afrikrea partners with DHL and Visa to launch SaaS e-commerce platform ANKA

In 2016, Ivorian e-commerce startup Afrikrea started as a marketplace for African-based and inspired clothing, accessories, arts, and crafts. Over the past five years, Afrikrea has served more than 7,000 sellers from 47 African countries and buyers from 170 countries.

Per the company’s data, it records more than 500,000 visits monthly, with the majority of its customers from Europe and North America recording over $15 million in transactions.

But while Afrikrea presents African merchants to showcase and sell their products to the world, it is just one of the many channels available, including personal websites and social media.

Co-founder and CEO Moulaye Taboure says that he noticed that merchants were splitting time and concentration across different channels, which affected their engagement with Afrikrea.

“We noticed that it was getting harder for our sellers to make sales because they were losing time, money and energy switching between channels,” Taboure told TechCrunch. “Every time they want to sell a product, they put it on social media, Afrikrea, and other websites. And when one buyer shows interest, there is no single place to track and see all the orders. That’s hard for these businesses to offer quality services and grow effectively.”

Then last year, Afrikrea began testing an all-in-one SaaS e-commerce platform for these merchants. Today, it is announcing its launch. The platform called ANKA will allow users to sell from Africa, ship products to anywhere in the world and get paid through local and international African payment methods.

Afrikrea

Image Credits:

E-commerce, payments and global shipping. That’s ANKA’s play for thousands of micro-retailers and businesses on the continent and around the world.

The platform lets users sell via an omnichannel dashboard with a single inventory, orders and messages management. Customers can carry out transactions via a customized online storefront like Shopify, social media platforms, links such as on Gumroad and the Afrikrea marketplace.

Merchants can carry out payments and payouts via a wallet and an Afrikrea Visa card. The platform, which costs $12, allows customers to perform mobile money and mobile banking transactions with MPesa, Orange, MTN and PayPal

Shipping completes the entire sales life cycle, from the point of sale to receipt of goods. In 2019, Afrikrea partnered with global logistics partner DHL to offer shipping services to its customers.

Fashion is ANKA’s best-selling category because of its affiliation with Afrikrea. The African fashion and apparel market is worth $31billion, per Euromonitor, and Afrikrea estimates the yearly spend of its major markets to be worth $12.5 billion. A breakdown from the company puts “the African diaspora in Europe at $1 billion, those in America and the Caribbean at $9 billion and non-Africans with links to the continent at $2.5 billion.”

But in terms of general e-commerce activities on the continent, McKinsey & Company pegs consumer spending to reach $2.1 trillion by 2025. African e-commerce is also expected to account for up to 10% of retail sales.

Platforms like Jumia, Mall4Africa and Takealot have been at the forefront of this growth over this past decade. MallforAfrica struck a partnership with DHL in 2015, then launched DHL Africa eShop with the logistics giant four years later. More than 200 sellers from the U.S. and U.K. serve African consumers in more than 30 countries on the platform.

Unlike MallforAfrica and other e-commerce platforms, ANKA differentiates itself as a platform for export rather than import, specifically for African products. According to Moulaye, ANKA is currently the largest e-commerce exporter on the continent, and since its partnership with DHL, it has shipped more than 10 tons of cargo monthly from Africa

“We are the biggest client of DHL exporting from Africa. We ship 10 tons every month and have sellers in 47 African countries, with Kenya and Nigeria as our largest markets. We have something African that is going to a global scale. That’s one of the angles we had with Afrikrea, and we want to keep that with ANKA. What sets us apart is that we’re not just trying to solve a purely African problem; we want to solve a global problem for Africans.”

Since launching five years ago, Afrikrea, which Taboure launched with Luc B. Perussault Diallo and Kadry Diallo, has raised a total of $2.1 million per Crunchbase. In this period, the company has seen its revenue grow 5x and claims to have ARR more than it has raised in its lifetime. To continue its growth efforts, Afrikrea is in the process of concluding a Series A round later this year.

#africa, #afrikrea, #anka, #dhl, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #jumia, #kenya, #mtn, #nigeria, #saas, #social-media-platforms, #startups, #tc

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DHL is deploying electric class 8 trucks in Los Angeles

An electric DHL class 8 truck on a bridge in Los Angeles

Enlarge / This BYD Class 8 truck, capable of hauling a combined 82,000 lbs, is yellow, but it’s also green. (credit: BYD)

DHL’s deliveries in the Los Angeles area are going to get a little greener in time for the holiday rush. The international courier company is deploying four Class 8 trucks to the city, built for it by BYD Motors, which it will use to haul cargo between its hub at Los Angeles International Airport and its local service centers.

“By implementing these electric trucks, we will prevent more than 300 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere per year, as we continue to grow and enhance our clean pick-up and delivery solutions,” said Greg Hewitt, CEO of DHL Express US.

“The introduction of these efficient electric trucks is a huge step forward, not only toward achieving our own clean transport goals, but also California’s ambitious goals on the adoption of zero-emission vehicles,” Hewitt said.

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#byd, #cars, #class-8-truck, #dhl, #electric-trucks

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Abandoned mall department stores may become Amazon’s next fulfillment center

One of the largest owners of shopping mall real estate in the United Stages, Simon Property Group, has been talking to Amazon about transforming its anchor department stores into Amazon distribution hubs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In the case of Simon Property, the anchor tenants like J.C. Penney and Sears that used to be stable sources of revenue are now weights around the neck of the retail real estate manager, and transforming their ghostly halls of pale mannequins into warehouses for Amazon orders simply makes sense.

The transformation from showroom to storehouse for everything from books and sweaters to kitchenware and electronics won’t be too much of a stretch for the vacant storefronts of businesses that hvae both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Simon’s holdings include some 63 JC Penney and 11 Sears stores, according to the Journal’s reporting citing a May public filing from the real estate developer.

This wouldn’t be the first time that Amazon had turned to mall real estate for fulfillment centers. in 2019, the online retailer acquired a massive physical footprint in Akron, Ohio that it turned into a distribution center.

Gone are the days when gum smacking tweens and teens and their beleaguered parents would head to the local mall for a stroll around the retail block. Now shoppers prefer to peruse online and kids find Fortnite to be the Hot Topic to hang in. 

The deal, if it goes through, would be another nail in the coffin for a staple of late twentieth century culture that now mostly exists in the memory of baby boomers and Gen X consumers (thanks millennials and Gen Z).

Malls these days are lifestyle affairs that promise boutique branded shops than the sprawling department stores that had something for everyone. The big-box spaces that the Journal reported Amazon is negotiating for are the 100,000 square foot, multi-story behemoths, that are likely not long for the long tail world of niche commerce anyway.

These days, consumers are looking for brands that appeal to a persona or the bottom line of a pocketbook, and not the mass casual one-stop-shop of late twentieth century department store off-the-rack identities.

The Journal reported that, if the deals went through, Simon would like rent the space at a considerable discount to what it would charge another retailer. The paper estimated that rents could be as low as $4 per square foot to $19 per square foot, while warehouse rents average about $10.

At this point, shopping malls are looking for anything to bring in money. They’ve already tried schools, medical offices and senior living facilities, but the COVID-19 epidemic has thrown all of those plans into the abyss.

And, as the Journal notes, malls are already located in places that make them attractive distribution hubs. Amazon has bought some sites already and FedEx and DHL have done the same, according to the paper.

At this point, Amazon ownership may be a better fate for the real estate than totally abandoning it to empty space and the lingering soundtrack of 80s rock.

 

#amazon, #dhl, #electronics, #fedex, #hot-topic, #ohio, #online-retailer, #real-estate, #retailers, #sears, #shopping-malls, #tc, #the-wall-street-journal

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Here’s what is driving GM’s reported plans to develop a commercial electric van

GM’s electric offensive to bring at least 20 new EVs to market by 2023 reportedly includes a commercial van.

Reuters reported Thursday that the company is developing an electric van for the commercial market code named BV1. The vehicle is expected to start production in late 2021 and will use the Ultium battery system that was revealed in March, according to the report.

When, and if, GM delivers on that goal in 2021 it will join an increasingly crowded pool. Amazon ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian, the first of which are expected to be on the road in 2021. Ford has announced an electric Transit van that’s expected to launch in 2021. Startups such as Arrival, Chanje, Enirde, and XoS have received orders for electric vans from package delivery companies such as Ryder and UPS.

Tesla is one outlier that hasn’t revealed plans to produce commercial electric vans. GM’s move has been cast as a strategy to get ahead of Tesla in the commercial marketplace.

But there are likely other reasons driving GM’s decision, including high margins that can be achieved selling commercial trucks and vans as well as governments enacting increasingly strict emissions laws, particularly in urban centers.

Electric vans are logical fit for delivery companies, which tend to have predictable routes, a specific geographic area and operate a high utilization all of which fits with the EV infrastructure and charging ecosystems that enables their full economic use, a research note released Thursday from Morgan Stanley argues.

Morgan Stanley notes it hasn’t been “smooth sailing” for all EV vans. For instance, DHL’s StreetScooter program was recently shut down.

Prior to Reuters’ report, it appeared GM’s EV strategy was pinned to passenger vehicles. In March, GM revealed an electric architecture that will be the foundation of its future EV plans and support a wide range of products across its brands, including compact cars, work trucks, large premium SUVs, performance vehicles and a new Bolt EUV crossover expected to come to market next summer.

GM said the modular architecture, called “Ultium,” will be capable of 19 different battery and drive unit configurations, 400-volt and 800-volt packs with storage ranging from 50 kWh to 200 kWh, and front-, rear- and all-wheel drive configurations.

GM’s focus on making this EV architecture modular underlines the automaker’s desire to electrify a wide variety of its business lines, from the Cruise Origin autonomous taxi and compact Chevrolet  Bolt EUV to the GMC HUMMER electric truck and SUV and the newly-announced Cadillac Lyriq SUV. GM also showed a variety of electric vehicles that had not yet been announced, to show how this modularity will be exploited further out in their product plan, including a massive Cadillac flagship sedan called Celestiq.

#amazon, #automotive, #cars, #deutsche-post, #dhl, #ford, #morgan-stanley, #rivian, #tc, #tesla, #ups

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Africa Roundup: DHL invests in MallforAfrica, Zipline launches in US, Novastar raises $200M

Events in May offered support to the thesis that Africa can incubate tech with global application.

Two startups that developed their business models on the continent — MallforAfrica and Zipline — were tapped by international interests.

DHL acquired a minority stake in Link Commerce, a turn-key e-commerce company that grew out of MallforAfrica.com — a Nigerian digital-retail startup.

Link Commerce offers a white-label solution for doing online-sales in emerging markets.

Retailers can plug into the company’s platform to create a web-based storefront that manages payments and logistics.

Nigerian Chris Folayan founded MallforAfrica in 2011 to bridge a gap in supply and demand for the continent’s consumer markets. While living in the U.S., Folayan noted a common practice among Africans — that of giving lists of goods to family members abroad to buy and bring home.

With MallforAfrica Folayan aimed to allow people on the continent to purchase goods from global retailers directly online.

The e-commerce site went on to onboard over 250 global retailers and now employs 30 people at order processing facilities in Oregon and the UK.

Folayan has elevated Link Commerce now as the lead company above MallforAfrica.com. He and DHL plan to extend the platform to emerging markets around the world and offer it to companies who want to wrap an online stores, payments and logistics solution around their core business

“Right now the focus is on Africa…but we’re taking this global,” Folayan said.

Another startup developed in Africa, Zipline, was tapped by U.S. healthcare provider Novant for drone delivery of critical medical supplies in the fight against COVID-19.

The two announced a partnership whereby Zipline’s drones will make 32-mile flights on two routes between Novant Health’s North Carolina emergency drone fulfillment center and the non-profit’s medical center in Huntersville — where frontline healthcare workers are treating coronavirus patients.

Zipline and Novant are touting the arrangement as the first authorized long-range drone logistics delivery flight program in the U.S. The activity has gained approvals by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and North Carolina’s Department of Transportation.

The story behind the Novant, Zipline UAV collaboration has a twist: the capabilities for the U.S. operation were developed primarily in Africa. Zipline has a test facility in the San Francisco area, but spent several years configuring its drone delivery model in Rwanda and Ghana.

Image Credits: Novant Health

Co-founded in 2014 by Americans Keller Rinaudo,  Keenan Wyrobek and Will Hetzler, Zipline designs its own UAVs, launch systems and logistics software for distribution of critical medical supplies.

The company turned to East Africa in 2016, entering a partnership with the government of Rwanda to test and deploy its drone service in that country. Zipline went live with UAV distribution of life-saving medical supplies in Rwanda in late 2016, claiming the first national drone-delivery program at scale in the world.

The company expanded to Ghana in 2016, where in addition to delivering blood and vaccines by drone, it now distributes COVID-19-related medication and lab samples.

In addition to partner Novant Health, Zipline has caught the attention of big logistics providers, such as UPS — which has supported (and studied) the startup’s African operations back to 2016.

The presidents of Rwanda and Ghana  — Paul Kagame and Nana Akufo-Addo — were instrumental in supporting Zipline’s partnerships in their countries. Other nations on the continent, such as Kenya,  South Africa and Zambia, continue to advance commercial drone testing and novel approaches to regulating the sector.

African startups have another $100 million in VC to pitch for after Novastar Ventures’ latest raise.

The Nairobi and Lagos-based investment group announced it has closed $108 million in new commitments to launch its Africa Fund II, which brings Novastar’s total capital to $200 million.

With the additional resources, the firm plans to make 12 to 14 investments across the continent, according to Managing Director Steve Beck .

On demand mobility powered by electric and solar is coming to Africa.

Vaya Africa, a ride-hail mobility venture founded by Zimbabwean mogul Strive Masiyiwa, launched an electric taxi service and charging network in Zimbabwe this week with plans to expand across the continent.

The South Africa-headquartered company is using Nissan Leaf EVs and has developed its own solar-powered charging stations. Vaya is finalizing partnerships to take its electric taxi services on the road to countries that could include Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia, Vaya Mobility CEO Dorothy Zimuto told TechCrunch.

The initiative comes as Africa’s on-demand mobility market has been in full swing for several years, with startups, investors and the larger ride-hail players aiming to bring movement of people and goods to digital platforms.

Uber and Bolt have been operating in Africa’s major economies since 2015, where there are also a number of local app-based taxi startups. Over the last year, there’s been some movement on the continent toward developing EVs for ride-hail and delivery use, primarily around motorcycles.

Beyond environmental benefits, Vaya highlights economic gains for passengers and drivers of shifting to electric in Africa’s taxi markets, where fuel costs compared to personal income is generally high for drivers.

Using solar panels to power the charging station network also helps Vaya’s new EV program overcome some of challenges in Africa’s electricity grid.

Vaya is exploring EV options for other on-demand transit applications — from min-buses to Tuk Tuk taxis.

In more downbeat news in May, Africa-focused tech talent accelerator Andela had layoffs and salary reductions as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, CEO Jeremy Johnson confirmed to TechCrunch.

The compensation and staff reductions of 135 bring Andela’s headcount down to 1,199 employees. None of Andela’s engineers were included in the layoffs.

Backed by $181 million in VC from investors that include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the startup’s client-base is comprised of more than 200 global companies that pay for the African developers Andela selects to work on projects.

There’s been a drop in the demand for Andela’s services, according to Johnson.

More Africa-related stories @TechCrunch  

African tech around the ‘net

#africa, #andela, #articles, #auto-rickshaw, #ceo, #chris-folayan, #delivery-drone, #department-of-transportation, #dhl, #dorothy-zimuto, #east-africa, #electricity, #emerging-technologies, #ghana, #healthcare, #internet-service, #investment, #jeremy-johnson, #keenan-wyrobek, #keller-rinaudo, #kenya, #lagos, #link-commerce, #nairobi, #nigeria, #nissan, #north-carolina, #novant-health, #novastar-ventures, #online-sales, #online-stores, #oregon, #retail, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #south-africa, #steve-beck, #tc, #technology, #transport, #uber, #united-states, #ups, #zimbabwe, #zipline

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DHL acquires stake in Link Commerce developed by MallforAfrica

DHL has acquired a minority stake in Link Commerce, a turn-key e-commerce company that grew out of MallforAfrica.com — a Nigerian digital-retail startup.

Link Commerce offers a white-label solution for doing digital-sales in emerging markets.

Retailers can plug into the company’s e-commerce platform to create a web-based storefront that manages payments and logistics.

With the investment one of the world’s largest delivery services looks to build a broader client-base globally using a business built in Africa.

DHL is trying to get their hands more into global e-commerce…across the world and they figured our platform was a good way to do it,” Link Commerce CEO Chris Folayan told TechCrunch.

Folayan originally founded MallforAfrica, which paved the way for Link Commerce. DHL’s investment in the company —  the amount of which is undisclosed — has roots in collaboration with Folayan’s original startup.

MallforAfrica began a partnership with DHL in 2015 and launched DHL Africa eShop in 2019. The sales platform is powered by Link Commerce and has brought more than 200 U.S. and U.K. sellers — from Neiman Marcus to Carters — online to African consumers in 34 countries.

DHL AFRICA ESHOP MAP

Image Credits: DHL

Similar to MallforAfrica’s model, Africa eShop allows users to purchase goods directly from the websites of any of the app’s partners.

For the global retailers selling on Africa eShop, the hurdles that held back distribution on the continent — payments, currency risk, logistics — are handled by the underlying Link Commerce operating platform.

“That’s what our service does. It takes care of that whole ecosystem to enable global e-commerce to exist, no matter what country you’re in,” Folayan told TechCrunch in 2019.

Link Commerce was built out of Folayan’s startup MallforAfrica.com, which he founded in 2011 after studying and working in the U.S.

A common practice among Africans — that of giving lists of goods to family members abroad to buy and bring home — highlighted a gap between supply and demand for the continent’s consumer markets.

With MallforAfrica Folayan aimed to close that gap by allowing people on the continent to purchase goods from global retailers directly online.

MallforAfrica and Link Commerce founder Chris Folayan, Image Credits: MallforAfrica

The e-commerce site went on to onboard over 250 global retailers and now employs 30 people at order processing facilities in Oregon and the UK.

MallforAfrica’s Africa eShop expansion put it on a footing to compete with Pan African e-commerce leader Jumia — which went public on the NYSE in 2019 — and China’s Alibaba, anticipated to enter online retail on the continent at some point.

The Link Commerce, DHL deal won’t change that, but Folayan has shifted the hirearchy of his businesses to make Link Commerce the lead operation and Africa one market of many.

Image Credits: Link Commerce

“We changed the structure. So now Link Commerce is above MallforAfrica and MallforAfrica is now powered by Link Commerce,” Folayan explained on a recent call.

“Right now the focus is on Africa…but we’re taking this global,” he added.

Folayan and DHL plan to extend the platform to emerging markets around the world, where other companies may look to grow by wrapping an online store, payments, and logistics solution around their core business.

That could include any large entity that wants to launch an international e-commerce site, according to Folayan.

“Link Commerce is focused on banks, mobile companies, shipping companies and partnering with them to expand globally,” he said.

That’s a big leap from Folayan’s original venture, MallforAfrica.com

What began as a startup to sell brand name jeans and sneakers online in Africa, has pivoted to a global e-commerce fulfillment business partially owned by logistics giant DHL.

#africa, #alibaba, #ceo, #china, #chris-folayan, #delivery-services, #dhl, #e-commerce, #economy, #jumia, #mallforafrica-com, #marketing, #neiman-marcus, #online-retail, #online-shopping, #oregon, #retail, #rocket-internet, #tc, #trade, #united-kingdom, #united-states

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India’s FarEye raises $25M to grow its logistics SaaS startup in international markets

More than 150 e-commerce and delivery companies globally use an Indian logistics startup’s service to work out the optimum way before they ship items to their customers. That startup, Noida-based FarEye, has raised $25 million in a new financing round as it looks to expand its footprint in international markets.

M12, Microsoft’s venture fund, led the seven-year-old startup’s Series D financing round. Eight Roads Ventures, Honeywell Ventures, and existing investor SAIF Partners participated in the round, which pushes FarEye’s total raise-to-date to $40 million.

FarEye helps companies orchestrate, track, and optimize their logistics operations. Say you order a pizza from Domino’s, the eatery uses FarEye’s service, which integrates into the system it is using, to quickly inform the customer how long they need to wait for the food to reach them.

Behind the scenes, FarEye is helping Domino’s evaluate a plethora of moving pieces. How many delivery people are in the vicinity? Can it bundle a few orders? What’s the maximum number of items one can carry? How experienced is the delivery person? What’s the best route to reach the customer? And, would the restaurant need the same number of delivery people the following day?, explained Kushal Nahata, co-founder and chief executive of FarEye, in an interview with TechCrunch .

Gautam Kumar (left), Gaurav Srivastava (centre), and Kushal Nahata co-founded FarEye in 2013

“The level of digitization that logistics firms have made over the years remains minimal. The amount of visibility they have over their own delivery network is minimal. Forget what a customer should expect,” said Nahata, explaining the challenges the industry faces.

FarEye is addressing this by using AI to parse through more than a billion data points to identify the optimum solution. In the past one year, it has fine-tuned its algorithm to handle last-mile and long-haul deliveries to offer a full-suite of services to its clients.

The startup, which employs about 350 people, said it is already handling more than 10 million transactions a day. The more transactions it processes, the better its algorithm becomes, he said.

FarEye today has clients across several categories including transportation and logistics, retail (which includes grocery, furniture, and fashion), and FMCG in 20 nations. Some of these clients include Walmart, FedEx, DHL, Amway, Domino’s, Bluedart, Future Group, and J&J. Nahata said the startup will use the fresh capital to improve its predictive tech and grow its footprint in the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific region.

“We are solving certain problems for our customers today, but I feel we can solve much larger problems and help digitize the entire supply chain network,” he said.

As the coronavirus pandemic jeopardises grocery and e-commerce firms’ ability to timely deliver items to customers, FarEye said it is making Serve, one of its services that focuses on enabling movement of everyday essentials, free for any firm to use for more than a year.

“The global pandemic has accelerated the need for enterprises to scale their supply chain operations efficiently to meet the rising share of online deliveries. FarEye’s highly configurable last-mile and long-haul logistics platform has been validated by leading global enterprises across the 3PL, retail and manufacturing categories,” said Shweta Bhatia, a partner at Eight Roads Ventures, in a statement.

FarEye has been making money since day one, but Nahata said an IPO is not something on the table for the foreseeable future. “Our biggest focus right now is to grow,” he said.

#asia, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #covid19, #dhl, #eight-roads-ventures, #fareye, #fedex, #funding, #india, #logistics, #microsoft, #saif-partners, #techcrunch, #walmart

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