Founders of Yahoo! and PayPal invest in new bulk broking tool

Founders of Yahoo! and PayPal invest in new bulk broking tool

Silicon Valley has come in with an initial $2.5m to support Shipamax, a new bulk broking tool.

Shipamax’s founders say they are “on a mission to fix the ship booking experience for transporting dry bulk commodities”, according to a release today.

The $2.5m seed investment is led by Cherubic Ventures with participation from AME Cloud and FF Angel.

Shipamax noted in a release today: “Booking a ship for dry bulk commodities is a slow and painful process. Data is siloed, making it hard to work as a team – shipowners and brokers receive in excess of 5,000 emails daily. Administrative costs are incredibly high with room for error every step of the way.”

In the intense debate about the future of shipbroking, much of which has taken place on this site over the first few months of this year, Shipamax has a different vision for the future – one that keeps the current ecosystem in place.

Shipamax says its vision is to become the platform of the industry – replacing the thousands of unnecessary emails, siloed excel files and instant messages between players required for each booking.

Shipamax is using technology to bring communications, data and market insight into one platform supporting the dry bulk shipping industry’s move into the digital age.

Jenna Brown, co-founder and CEO of Shipamax, commented: “We estimate over 50% of the work in bulk shipping is centred around communications. Empowering employees with intuitive technology to increase the efficiency of these interactions will transform this industry in the next five years.”

Shipamax originally launched as a tech driven shipbroker, arising from the founders’ frustrations with the ship booking process. However, they quickly felt that the problem was not the brokers, but the process itself. After adapting their product to this need, they started pilots in January and have now successfully rolled out Shipamax to shipping companies around the world.

Founders Jenna Brown and Fabian Blaicher have background in the shipping industry combined with technology and startup experience. After working for RWE Supply & Trading, Brown most recently worked at London’s fintech GoCardless. Blaicher, meanwhile, is a published computer scientist after starting his first software company age 18.

Shipamax is focused on dry bulk ships, an industry, the company claimed today, is “virtually untouched” by startup technology.

Cherubic Ventures is an early stage technology focused venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley and Greater China. Founded by angel investor Matt Cheng in 2010, Cherubic Ventures has invested in over 100 companies across Silicon Valley and greater China, including Flexport, Hyperloop One, Wish, and Ring.

AME Cloud, another investor, is the technology innovation investment arm of Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!, while FF Angel is the early stage investment vehicle of Founders Fund, a venture capital firm run by Peter Thiel’s fund, the PayPal co-founder.

Speaking exclusively with Splash, Brown said the difference between Shipamax and the likes of Ocean Freight Exchange and OpenSea.pro is that her company is not a brokerage house.

“We are a pure technology layer that just helps the whole ecosystem communicate more efficiently. Plus we don’t outsource and have deep tech backgrounds to build in house,” Brown said.

Compared to many other sectors, dry bulk, Brown said, has been left behind by tech changes.

“If you look at fintech, there’s startups left, right and centre trying to make the user experience more seamless on every single banking product that exists,” Brown said, adding: “I think one of the key reasons for this is that [dry bulk] is a relatively closed off industry – so there’s less interaction with tech talent that might try to build this technology.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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4 Comments

  1. Tony Fordyce
    May 22, 2017 at 10:58 am

    This tool is apparently designed for shipbrokers, yet the introductory blurb talks about ‘booking’ ships, not ‘fixing’ them, so I wonder how much time – if any – the founders (still less the investors) have ever spent in a shipbroking office? As they say, it is a ‘closed-off’ industry, and has been happy to be that way for many years.

    A large number of tools have been aimed at the shipbroking industry and have failed, so I really wonder whether this one is any more likely to succeed, although it seems to be designed for the processes of broking, not the actual broking itself, so it could be different.

    Will this, like many other ‘tools’, require a critical mass of users before it takes off? For example, can it work for only, say, the receiver of a mail or digital information, or does it require the sender also to use it? It will be interesting to see, and I will be happy to be proved wrong, if it improves the broking process!

    1. Jenna
      May 22, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Hi Tony, thanks for the feedback. Yes I know the word ‘booking’ is a little out of sync with the shipping world. We took the decision to use the word as most of the industry will know what we mean, but it helps others (i.e. developers who we are looking to hire), to get their head around what we do. It may not be the right balance, but we will always be reviewing these kinds of things.

      We’ve designed the system so that it can be useful in ‘single-player’ mode. Happy to show you more and answer any questions. Just get in touch – jenna@shipamax.com (may be a little slow over the next couple of days)

  2. Stem
    May 23, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Dear Jenna,

    out of curiosity, what your platform can offer over the competition? And when I say platform, presume, there is only one idea on a ppt, couple of investors that have no knowledge of the business and on the other side, companies offering software developed by hundreds of developers, using industry knowledge and expertise built for decades.
    With all due respect, how a girl with no shipping/chartering/operations/broking knowledge and experience will offer the professionals something that will massively improve their 300+ years old workflow? Some things just do not change, it’s this business nature!
    And yes booking and fixing differs a lot as terms in our business!

    Wish you luck and investor’s patience!

    1. Jenna
      May 23, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Dearest Stem,

      Well done on noticing that indeed I am a female!

      Your assumptions are incorrect. If you would like to hear the real story feel free to get in touch.

      Jenna