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Freight tech startup Forto raises $240 million in Softbank-led round – Reuters

BERLIN, June 21 (Reuters) – Forto has raised $240 million from investors led by Softbank (9984.T), the freight technology startup said on Monday, and will invest in expanding its platform for organising trade shipments between China and Europe.

The five-year-old Berlin firm offers a single platform for managing the journey of a shipping container from origin to destination – a task long handled with pen, paper and post-it notes, said Forto CEO and co-founder Michael Wax.

“A shipment from Shanghai to a warehouse in Berlin should not be more difficult than a payment via Paypal or Stripe today,” Wax told Reuters, comparing the digitalisation of logistics with that of consumer payments.

The investment round, led by Softbank Vision Fund 2, values Forto at $1.2 billion and brings the total amount of venture funding it has raised to $360 million.

Softbank has placed other bets on freight tech including on China’s Full Truck Alliance (YMM.N), which has filed to do an initial public offering in New York that would value it at more than $20 billion. read more

Forto, one of a crop of fast-growing German logistics startups that includes trucking specialist Sennder, trebled revenue last year despite the shock to world trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic. read more

With supply chains strained by shifting consumption patterns and a steep economic recovery, Forto says its freight management system is key for clients to maximise the visibility and flexibility of their own shipments.

Wax, also a co-founder of railway technology startup Konux, said Forto had a client roster of 2,500 companies. It is focused on serving mid-sized businesses shipping up to 10,000 containers a year by sea, rail and air. read more

Larger clients include online furniture retailer Home 24 and German supermarket chain Edeka. Forto has also handled shipments for commodities house Glencore (GLEN.L) and industrial group ThyssenKrupp (TKAG.DE).

“We are building the digital backbone of global trade – 90% of the goods that we have in our hands are either in a container or have been in a container,” said Wax.

Also participating in the investment found were new investors Citi Ventures and G Squared, while existing backers including Northzone, Cherry Ventures and Unbound reinvested, Forto said.

Reporting by Douglas Busvine; editing by Jason Neely

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