Nowports, an automated digital freight forwarder in Latin America, has raised $150 million in a Series C funding round which values the company at $1.1 billion.
For the unacquainted, digital freight forwarders use digital tools that improve communication and efficiencies in the shipping process, among other things, to help shipments get where they need to go in a timely manner. With so much attention on supply chain issues since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of an efficient supply chain is more apparent than ever. To quote my colleague Anna Heim, digitizing freight forwarding is a global challenge because the sector still lacks transparency and efficiency. Latin American startups have a steeper hill to climb, but this also drives them to innovate and help each other in interesting ways.
Nowport’s raise — led by SoftBank Latin America Fund — comes just six months after the Monterey, Mexico-based startup announced it had secured $60 million in a Series B funding round led by Tiger Global Management. It also marks Nowports’ third equity raise in less than one year’s time, and brings its total funding to over $240 million since its 2018 inception. The company had also raised $16 million in a Series A funding round that TechCrunch reported on in July of 2021.
The startup’s valuation jump is a huge one, considering that Nowport was valued at $80 million in March of 2021, according to CEO and co-founder Alfonso De los Ríos. In the first quarter of 2022, the company saw its revenue climb by “more than 12x” year-over-year, he said, while achieving a 10x growth year-over-year in containers shipped and customers served.
Nowports raised its initial seed round in 2019 after graduating from Y Combinator’s Winter 2019 batch with a mission to innovate the freight forwarding industry by helping companies — with an emphasis on SMEs — improve the import process. As former TC reporter Jonathan Shieber put it, the company was “sett[ing] itself up to be the Flexport of Latin America.” Its software and services track freight shipments from ports to destinations across Latin America. Over time, it has expanded its offerings and now also automates insurance policies for, and provides inventory financing, to its clients.
Put simply, Nowports aims to streamline the import and export processes of Latin American companies and improve the visibility of their supply chains with “valuable information.”
The company’s inventory financing tool — released last year — is designed to give its customers the ability to acquire more merchandise for import and pay for it later. The end goal is to help companies increase their imports and exports with fintech.
“They can get faster financing with Nowports since we can use our shipping history and preloaded information to approve them,” said De los Ríos. “We started with Inventory Financing at the end of last year and have plans to offer it in every country we work on by the end of this year.”
The move, in addition to offering cargo insurance, is part of Nowport’s goal to serve as a one-stop shop for the companies it serves.
In the first quarter of 2022, Nowports started operations in Panama and expanded into Concepcion, Chile, and Medellin, Colombia. Today, the startup has 10 active offices in seven countries, including Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Panama. It has more than 500 employees.
The company plans to use its new capital to, naturally, do more hiring with an emphasis on engineering for technological development. It also plans to expand its presence in countries where it already operates and to open offices in more cities. The first planned openings will take place in Brazil, Mexico and Chile.
Also participating in the latest round were Tiger Global, Foundation Capital, Monashees, Broadhaven Ventures, Mouro Capital and Base10 Partners. Daniel Vogel of Bitso, Ricardo Amper of Incode, Alex Bouaziz of Deel and Roger Laughlin of Kavak also participated in the round.
“We were not expecting to start Series C that quickly, but we were growing at giant steps, now competing in the top five countries for maritime trade, joining the fintech environment, and with a strong team,” De los Ríos told TechCrunch. “We needed a new investment round to expand our financing services and create a robust platform. We are confident we can revolutionize the supply chain faster with this new capital.”
Juan Franck, managing partner of SoftBank Latin America Fund, said that Nowports has all the characteristics the firm is looking for in a startup: “technology at its core, a promising business model, exceptional founders, and a solution to a complex challenge, with great potential for transformation, starting with Latin America.”
He is also impressed by the company’s use of artificial intelligence, big data and IoT to improve the import and export chain.
“We believe the investment will help Nowports to consolidate its presence in the Brazilian market and create new services and solutions, becoming a true reference in innovation in Latin America,” Franck added.