Meet BlueCargo, a logistics startup focused on seaport terminals. The company was part of Y Combinator’s latest batch and recently raised a $3 million funding round from 1984 Ventures, Green Bay Ventures, Sound Ventures, Kima Ventures and others.
If you picture a terminal, chances are you see huge piles of containers. But current sorting methods are not efficient at all. Yard cranes end up moving a ton of containers just to reach a container sitting at the bottom of the pile.
BlueCargo wants to optimize those movements by helping you store containers at the right spot. The first container that is going to leave the terminal is going to be at the top of the pile.
“Terminals spend a lot of time making unproductive or undesired movements,” co-founder and CEO Alexandra Griffon told me. “And yet, terminals only generate revenue every time they unload or load a container.”
Right now, ERP-like solutions only manage containers according to a handful of business rules that don’t take into account the timeline of a container. Empty containers are all stored in one area, containers with dangerous goods are in another area, etc.
The startup leverages as much data as possible on each container — where it’s coming from, the type of container, if it’s full or empty, the cargo ship that carried it, the time of the year and more.
Every time BlueCargo works with a new terminal, the startup collects past data and processes it to create a model. The team can then predict how BlueCargo can optimize the terminal.
“At Saint-Nazaire, we could save 22 percent on container shifting,” Griffon told me.
The company will test its solution in Saint-Nazaire in December. It integrates directly with existing ERP solutions. Cranes already scan container identification numbers. BlueCargo could then instantly push relevant information to crane operators so that they know where to put down a container.
Saint-Nazaire is a relatively small port compared to the biggest European ports. But the company is already talking with terminals in Long Beach, one of the largest container ports in the U.S.
BlueCargo also knows that it needs to tread carefully — many companies already promised magical IT solutions in the past. But it hasn’t changed much in seaports.
That’s why the startup wants to be as seamless as possible. It only charges fees based on shifting savings — 30 percent of what it would have cost you with the old model. And it doesn’t want to alter workflows for people working at terminals — it’s like an invisible crane that helps you work faster.
There are six dominant players managing terminals around the world. If BlueCargo can convince those companies to work with the startup, it would represent a good business opportunity.
By Romain Dillet