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Maersk Invests in Freight-Booking Startup Loadsmart


A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S is investing in U.S. freight-booking startup Loadsmart Inc. as the container shipping giant builds up its efforts to extend its services beyond maritime transportation.

Maersk Growth, the shipping company’s venture investment arm, is leading a $21.6 million Series A funding round in New York City-based Loadsmart, together with Connor Capital SB and Chromo Invest. Maersk said its stake in Loadsmart provides “huge potential” for integrating its ocean-shipping services with the startup’s trucking technology.

Loadsmart, which focuses on booking full-truckload shipments for shippers that include Daimler AG , Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and Electrolux AB, says it will use the funds primarily to reach new customers.

“It’s not just about moving shipments, but how can we add technology—collecting data and launching products that make [shippers’] lives easier,” said Loadsmart Chief Executive Ricardo Salgado.

As the container shipping industry continues to boom, companies are adopting new technologies to move cargo faster and shifting to crewless ships. But it’s not all been smooth sailing and the future will see fewer players stay above water.

Loadsmart is in a growing lineup of companies that are bringing new technology to the shipping business and seeking to upgrade often-antiquated systems by making booking easier and providing greater visibility on the movement of goods through supply chains. By gathering and connecting shipment data in the cloud, the new technologies seek to provide live status updates, auto-populate paperwork and reduce wait times for pickups and drop-offs at warehouses, ports, rail yards and other freight hubs.

“We want to deliver end-to-end solutions to our customers,” said Sune Stilling of Maersk Growth. “Being able to leverage Loadsmart is a great fit for our longer-term vision…We think of it as pieces of the puzzle.” Maersk Growth also has invested in supply chain tech startups SensorTransport, Ripe.io and TeleSense Inc., according to a company spokesman.

Natan Reddy, an analyst with CB Insights, said the Maersk-Loadsmart partnership comes as other large shipping companies are investing more in supply chain technology startups. French container line CMA CGM SA this year opened what it calls an incubator for digital startups looking to bring technology to shipping.

Maersk is “trying to get in on this rising tide of supply chain technology we’re seeing coming up,” Mr. Reddy said.

“Maersk has control over a huge number of containers…so it would make sense to position yourself as somebody who’s enabling them or leveraging them to yourself,” Mr. Reddy said. “The players that I see as having the most runway into the future…are focused more on connecting with existing players in the system rather than those looking to replace existing players.”