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FreightHub, a Berlin and Hamburg-based startup that claims to be Europe’s first fully digital freight forwarder, has raised a $20 million Series A round, just 1.5 years since launch. The round is led by VC firm Northzone, with participation from existing investors. The latter includes Rocket Internet’s Global Founders Capital (GFC), Cherry Ventures, Cavalry Ventures, and La Famiglia.

Operating in the freight industry, a market that is ripe for digitalisation and as a result has attracted a plethora of well-funded startups, FreightHub is setting out to compete with and replace traditional freight forwarding companies who typically rely on legacy IT systems and cumbersome and manual processes. This, the company claims, leads to price opacity and inefficiencies, something it is aiming to eradicate.

“The logistics industry still largely relies on outdated, manual, and paper heavy legacy systems and processes, leading to a lot of inefficiencies and lack of transparency,” says FreightHub’s co-founder and CEO Ferry Heilemann, who previously founded Groupon clone DailyDeal, which was sold to Google in 2011.

“We are giving our customers the control over their supply chain by making Freight forwarding more efficient, more reliable and more transparent through real time processes on our digital platform”.

Describing FreightHub’s broader mission as “building the backbone of 21st century global trade,” unlike a number of other startups in the freight space that are taking a marketplace or price sharing and comparison approach, Heilemann says the startup is operating as a full service digital freight forwarder, meaning that it deals with its B2B customers from quotation, right through to shipping and tracking shipments.

This has seen FreightHub digitise customer acquisition with a sales process that uses online channels and screen sharing instead of having field sales people driving to industrial parks and knocking on doors. Quotation and booking has also been digitised, with the FreightHub founder claiming that it is the only freight forwarding player in Europe offering real time quotation and booking on its platform for sea, air, and rail, between Asia and Europe.

The company has also built a proprietary transport management system (TMS) to streamline all its processes, with real-time tracking and analytics also provided. “We are delivering best after sales service through our real-time track and trace with automated notifications, a perfect shipment overview and centralised document management. Customers don’t need to call us to find out about the status of their shipment,” says Heilemann.

Meanwhile, I’m told FreightHub has acquired more than 650 customers in the first 17 months, including leading e-commerce sites like Home24 and Lesara that are importing from Asia to Europe, and European ‘mid-market companies’ like Franke or Viessmann.

The startup generates revenue in the same was as traditional freight forwarders do by adding a handling fee to the rates it receives from carriers. “In the long run we may add special software features for enterprise customers, leading to a combined business model of transactional and software revenues,” adds Heilemann.

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