Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man and founder of Amazon, is investing some of his wealth in a British technology start-up that wants to become a global logistics giant,media reported. Sky News has revealed that Bezos has agreed to fund Digital Freight forwarding and supply chain finance platform Beacon.
The Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates Bezos is now worth $143 billion — and it is understood that Bezos will be involved in Beacon’s $15 million Round A financing. Attracting the world’s richest man as a supporter is a huge change for Beacon, especially since as Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Bezos is familiar with the complexities of supply chain management.
The Washington Post billionaire has a long track record of investing in start-ups, with Airbnb and Grail, a cancer-testing company and others among the companies he supports.
He owns about 12 per cent of Amazon, which has competed with Apple, Google parent Alphabet and Microsoft for the world’s most valuable public company. Amazon’s market value is $1.22 trillion at Friday’s closing price of $2,442.37 a share.
The UK-based company Beacon was founded in 2018 to use artificial intelligence, cloud computing and other technologies to improve operational efficiency in international trade in customer organizations. Freight forwarding companies act as agents between exporters and importers, charging a fee for services arranged by the factory for the carriage of goods before shipment. They are also responsible for managing the relevant paperwork required for exports.
The industry’s biggest players include global logistics groups DHL and Kuehne and Nagel, but the industry is seen as slow to embrace the digital age. Beacon was set up to improve efficiency in a historically fragmented industry, and industry insiders said this weekend that its latest fundraising opportunities were shrewd. The new corona virus pandemic has put supply chain integrity issues on the board agenda of multinational companies around the world.
Earlier this year, factories in parts of China — known as “world factories” because of their manufacturing capacity — were shut down for several weeks because of the virus, leaving companies scrambling to find alternative production routes to produce goods. It is understood that during the crisis, Beacon saw strong demand from companies in the e-commerce and homewares industries, particularly e-commerce and household goods.
The company offers a range of services — including global shipping, air and trucking — that can be accessed and managed on one platform. Its technology provides real-time visibility into global cargo deliveries while providing data on global transportation costs and prices, using machine learning tools to optimize transportation routes and processes to increase cost, speed and reliability.
This is a marked difference from Uber’s Uber, which is owned by Uber Technologies, according to people familiar with the matter. Uber Freight offers point-to-point delivery using trucks and online booking. One industry insider said providing supply chain financing was another key differentiation advantage for Beacon.
By providing financing within 72 hours, the company helps importers meet their cash flow needs, which is a key issue for importers, who always have to pay suppliers before the goods start shipping, which can take months. By investing in Beacon, Bezos joins one of the world’s most famous investors in any of the early tech companies. Its shareholders include Eric Schmidt, google’s former chief executive, and Travis Kalanick, who was forced to step down from Uber’s board.