Jacques Goudchaux admits a sense of déjà vu with the current shipping platform wars. The CEO of France’s AXSMarine has been here before. Rivals are popping up – and taking pops – at his company, just as they did a generation ago at the time of the dotcom boom.
AXSMarine is one of the few survivors from those heady days around the turn of the century and Goudchaux reckons he knows why. He recalls how when AXSMarine was launched, rival LevelSeas was “noisily” promoting how its platform was going to revolutionise the way the business of shipping was done. Goudchaux recently met up with Richard Hext, the CEO of the now defunct LevelSeas. Hext, a serial entrepreneur and long term Swire executive, admitted one of the things LevelSeas had done wrong was trying to replace or kick out brokers.
“Our model was the complete opposite,” Goudchaux recalls in an exclusive interview with Maritime CEO. “We considered all of the players because shipbroker BRS was and is the main shareholder of the company, so as a way to serve the industry we wanted to facilitate everyone’s role in the industry, not to kick people out. This has proven to be right.”
Back in 2001 there were more than 80 broking/chartering initiatives launched online – AXSMarine stands out today as the sole survivor.
Fast-forward 17 years and AXSMarine is no longer the upstart, rather the target of a new swathe of platforms keen to take market share away from the established top dog of shipping internet ventures.
Goudchaux is not happy with the attacks his company is taking from these new entrants, but admits it is all part of the job.
“There are other people who have come back 15 years later trying to imitate us to be the next AXSMarine, such as Ocean Freight Exchange,” Goudchaux says of the Singapore chartering platform launched a couple of years ago and run by John Hahn.
“We follow each and every announcement,” Goudchaux says of the sudden mushrooming of new rivals.
Shipamax, the UK-based bulk broking tool, founded two years ago also comes in for criticism from Goudchaux.
“Shipamax were loud to everyone that they had raised money from Silicon Valley. Also like Mr Hahn does, they are trying to destroy the image of other companies, with AXSMarine being the main target.”
Still, Goudchaux is adamant the expertise and tools at AXSMarine’s disposal should see off this new rounder of contenders.
“My view is that, like in 2000, this new wave of funding I would bet in two or three years most, if not all of these, have gone bust we will go back to more quiet times like before,” he predicts.
Goudchaux had ambitions of a career in professional sport before he entered the shipping world. A brilliant skier, he also took to motor racing, getting as far as Formula 3000, the next rung down from Formula One. When his racing career came to end he joined France’s largest shipbroker, BRS, in 1990. He focused on the chartering of liner ships for the next 25 years, also starting Alphaliner in 2000, which is today among the most respected sources of liner data in the world. Five years ago he took over AXSMarine.
Today, the revenues of AXSMarine are roughly split 40% with AXSDry, 40% with Alphaliner, 15% with AXSTanker and the remaining 5% is made up of ad hoc reports.
The company has just released a new tanker module, Alphatanker, which is open to principles only, where as AXSTanker is open to brokers only.
Another new development is a communication tool – AXSMail, which is completely embedded with AXSDry. The reader is a system that the company has developed and takes out data, handling thousands of emails a day that readers do not need to read on cargo positions, available ships, etc.
“It’s a massive game changer,” Goudchaux claims. Marketing of this new tool is expected to commence next month.
Goudchaux is especially keen to highlight to Maritime CEO readers another new creation from his skilled team of developers, Trade Flows, a tool to keep track of all dry bulk and tanker vessel and commodity movements.
“The range and variety of systems we offer is unique,” Goudchaux insists, maintaining: “We focus on data and tools, which separates us.”