Portcast gets $3.2M to create more transparent and sustainable supply chains – TechCrunch

Many manufacturers and freight forwarders still manage logistics manually. This involves tracking shipments by calling or doing an online search, then entering the data into an Excel spreadsheet. Portcast, a next-generation logistics platform, improves efficiency by aggregating data from multiple sources. It not only tracks shipments in real time but also predicts what could affect them, such as major weather events, tides, and pandemic-related issues.
Today, the company announced that it raised $3.2million in pre-Series A financing, led by Newtown Partners through the Imperial Venture Fund. Participation from Wavemaker Partners and TMV, Innoport, SGInnovate, and Innoport was also included. Portcast, a Singapore-based company, serves clients across Asia and Europe. Part of the funding will be used to expand in other markets.

Nidhi and Dr. Lingxiao Xia, co-founders of Portcast, met at Entrepreneur First in Singapore. Gupta was the chief executive officer of Portcast before she started. She had previously held leadership positions at DHL in Asia. She realized that the inefficiencies in logistic sectors were actually an opportunity to create something.

Portcast claims it can track more than 90% world trade volume by ocean carriers and 35% by air cargo and forecast the demand for 30,000 routes. Geospatial data such as satellite data that shows where ships are and what direction they're traveling in, which ports they're heading to, wind speed, wave height, and speed are some of the sources. Portcast also examines economic patterns, such as Brexit's effect on ports in the United Kingdom and how vaccine rollouts around world change airline and ship capacity), and weather events, like the Suez Canal disruption.

Other data sources include transactional data that customers provide, such as large shipping companies or freight forwarders.

TechCrunch asked Gupta how to make all this data understand each other. These data are coming in at different frequencies and granularities. So how can you consolidate them and ensure that the machine understands it?

Portcast's main solutions include currentlu Intelligent Container Visibility, which allows real-time tracking and analysis of shipping containers. Forecasting and Demand Management tracks booking patterns. Portcast does not use IoT for tracking containers as it is too costly to place one device in each one. However, they are working with IoT providers to develop hybrid solutions. For example, one container could have a tracking device and the data can be used to manage the remainder of the shipment.

Startups aim to predict the future and help companies increase efficiency. Logistics operators receive hundreds of cargo every week. They go and check this manually every day. Gupta said that this data is entered into Excel sheets and used to plan downstream operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the urgent need for digitization. It transformed supply chains from being a cost function into the core of getting products on schedule. We work with both large manufacturers and freight forwarders. A European food and beverage company sent a shipment to Taipei. This is a journey that normally takes around 70 days. It took three months for the shipment to arrive. Portcast helped its customers to understand why the delay occurred by tracking the shipment as it traveled through different ports and ships.

Gupta said that they were able not only to predict when disruptions will occur but also to identify and say that there is a delay of X day because there will likely to be a typhoon, or a transshipment. This empowers them as they can tell their trucking/warehousing crews how many containers will arrive. This helps reduce port fees, detention costs and the time spent manually looking at different companies' websites trying to find out their supply chain.

Portcast's advantage over other logistics startups looking to improve supply chain visibility is its launch from the Asia-Pacific region. Ships usually pass through multiple ports and must work around frequent weather conditions like tropical storms or typhoons. Portcast's technology, which was developed to make shorter journeys between Singapore and Malaysia (for instance), can also be applied to intercontinental routes such as Asia and Europe or Asia and America.

Gupta stated that our technology is globally scaled and allows us to compete with other players in the market. Our other difference is that we not only work with manufacturers but also with shipping and logistics companies. This allows us to create network effects. The strong synergy that exists between ocean freight and air freight allows us to see patterns and create leverage for other companies that join our platform.

Future plans of Portcasts include moving from predictive AI into prescriptive AI in the next two quarters. The platform is currently able to tell companies what causes delays. However, prescriptive AI will allow it to make automatic suggestions. It can inform clients which ports are faster and what other modes of transport can be used to help them avoid disruptions.

Order Visiblity, which will allow users to track the contents of containers containing a particular item, is also planned by the company. Overstretched supply chains are contributing to rising consumer prices for many types of products. Portcast allows companies to track SKUs in real time, allowing them to help expedite items' arrivals and show the CO2 emissions from each shipment.

Gupta stated that carbon offsetting and carbon trading are only possible if you have visibility into your actual spending. That's where we can get involved. A shipping company can make predictions, such as if you'll arrive early, and that could allow them to slow down and conserve fuel like bunker fuel. This not only saves a lot of money but also reduces CO2 emissions.