A logtech startup founded in a garage in Wasserbillig is setting its sights on being the first online freight procurement unicorn. Shipsta founder Christian Wilhelm explains.
Author: Jess Bauldry
Shipsta is still celebrating the good news. Three years after launching its flagship product, it raised $10m in finance – not bad for a tech startup that discreetly toils away in the east of the country.
Having begun in a Wasserbillig garage, the firm has moved locations more times than founder and CEO Christian Wilhelm cares to recall. Currently, it rents a converted 1,200 M2 warehouse in Mertert for its team, which doubled in size from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022 to reach more than 70 people.
Wilhelm is enjoying the new base. “It’s interesting because on the one hand we have a digital platform. On the other hand, when you look out the window you see the harbour, with the ArcelorMittal steel, freight containers for rail and road. You have a direct link,” he says.
Landlocked Luxembourg may not be an obvious choice to launch a shipping logistics tech firm. Nevertheless, it has a buoyant maritime cluster, which has been attracting blue ship companies since 2008. For Wilhelm, Luxembourg was familiar. Prior to founding the business in 2015 [at the time called Clear Logistics], the founder worked for a decade at logistics firm Kuehne and Nagel’s Contern offices. Plus, he says, it was relatively easy to find the tech talent to develop the platform.
Fighting The Excel Tsunami
Wilhelm describes Shipsta’s vision as a ‘Robin Hood’ solution, which wants “to provide everybody in the world with access to procure freight online for transport modes, be it air, sea, or road freight.”
With a focus on optimisation of processes and intelligence, Shipsta aims to become the booking.com for logistics where, within a single click, stakeholders can compare rates on shipping from Luxembourg to Paris, for instance.
“We already implemented sustainability in Shipsta Planet, with CO2 calculations to build sustainability targets into the procurement decision process.” Christian Wilhelm, founder of Shipsta
“It’s unbelievable but it didn’t exist,” the founder says, explaining that many major logistics firms continue to cling to manual processes and excel spreadsheets. “I call it an Excel tsunami, because only 10% of the global freight spend is procured online,” he adds.
Not only does digitalisation of these processes offer greater efficiency to stakeholders, its disruption could also lead to more competitive rates, an important consideration given that ocean freight rates from Asia to Europe exploded during the pandemic.
According to the 2021 United Nations review of maritime transport, since the start of the pandemic spot rates on the Shanghai-Europe route rose by a factor of eight, hitting $7,395 per TEU. To mitigate against such surges and their impact on supply chains, the report recommended digitalising trade facilitation, suggesting that now is a ripe time for logtech to flourish.
Sustainability And Subsidiaries
As one of the first movers, Shipsta has around 100 major enterprise clients across 22 countries and boasts some 260 million datasets. The firm hopes that SMEs will now follow the leaders in adopting the technology. The latest fundraising will enable Shipsta to grow globally and refine its product. “Our goal is to roll out our platform this year to more than 40 countries in the world,” Wilhelm says, adding that there is no official decision regarding the location of subsidiary offices.
The second growth pillar will be investing into research and development “so that we can continuously optimise our logistic platform with more AI machine learning. And the third pillar is sustainability. “We already implemented sustainability in Shipsta Planet, with CO2 calculations to build sustainability targets into the procurement decision process,” the CEO says.
Today, Wilhelm splits his time 90% in Luxembourg and 10% in Hamburg where Shipsta opened a subsidiary in 2019. Very soon, he could also be jetting to Asia and wherever else Shipsta opens subsidiary offices.
Article courtesy of our content partner site Silicon Luxembourg
About the Author
Jess Bauldry - Jess has trained and worked for several newspapers in the UK before moving to Luxembourg in 2010 where she worked as a full-time reporter for the Luxemburger Wort and Delano. In her free time, she writes fiction, cycles and performs stand-up comedy.