Supply chain startups were the darlings of the VC world for the last several years, with firms increasing year-over-year investment in the space by 80% between 2020 and 2021.
Now that the pandemic-fueled ecommerce craze has slowed and ports are back to business after months of backlogs, funding has dipped and the national spotlight has largely turned off of the supply chain space.
But that doesn’t mean the innovation is slowing down.
The supply chain space was “slow to embrace technology,” he told Hypepotamus. But after COVID, it is “seen more as a value center and not just a cost center.”
It is no longer enough for businesses to think about cutting costs associated with shipping goods and raw materials, he added. Now, consumer demand sets the tone. Not only are companies focused on last-mile delivery options, but they are also forced to shore up their upstream B2B deliveries.
A focus on automation won’t cut it anymore, Rao said. “Now, technologies are digesting data, understanding patterns, and learning to self-heal” in order to optimize routes and find problems before they become costly mistakes.
That means all eyes are on startups that can help optimize increasingly complex supply chains. That is a space nuVizz, an eleven-year-old business, knows very well. nuVizz looks to simplify the complexities surrounding transportation management by bringing route optimization, load planning, and delivery. nuVizz has been used by customers in medical, food, and retail verticals, a sign of just how versatile their technology is for today’s modern supply chain problems.
Other bright spots
More than most tech verticals, supply chain is directly impacted by macroeconomic conditions. Inflation, recession, and geopolitics all play a role in how much attention is placed on the industry. While it is impossible to accurately predict what global trends might impact supply chains next, local startups seem up for the challenge.
This week, Atlanta-based KetteQ closed a $9 million Series A round. Lead investor Vocap Partners and co-investor Circadian Ventures, both based in Atlanta, are backing the startup focusing on supply chain management and optimization.
KetteQ CEO Mike Landry said KetteQ’s competitive advantage is the way it leverages Salesforce to help customers better plan out inventory and get “clues into what demand will look like” down the road.
“The systems that are out there now can run one scenario and test one idea at a time,” Landry told Hypepotamus. “But because we have this infinite capacity of the cloud…[we’ve helped companies run] 100,000 scenarios in two minutes. We test every possible decision from transportation modes to sourcing. And then we look at every one of those tests and start to figure out which one gives the best combination for transportation cost, inventory impact, and on time delivery.”
Borrowing its name from the German word for chain, KetteQ was formed from the Atlanta-based team behind the workforce software tool Servigistics and the German-based company Barkawi.
KetteQ’s leadership team brings a long tenure in the supply chain world into this latest startup. And that experience has caught the attention of several global businesses already. Customers to date include Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan (which uses KetteQ to manage last-mile delivery into popular vending machines across the country), Trimble Transportation, Carrier, and the trendy toothbrush company Quip.
Landry said the team raised a $3 million friends and family round to jumpstart the business, but this is the first institutional capital to hit KetteQ’s cap table. He added that the Series A investment will be poured into go-to market, sales, and marketing efforts.
Qualle, which coincidentally also borrows its name from German, is another local startup to raise funds recently.
The Nashville-based venture announced its $1.5 million pre-seed round in early March to grow its logistics platform specifically to optimize the use of empty containers. The startup sells directly to trucking companies and steamship lines and looks to match import containers with exporters’ demand.
Led by co-founder and CEO Tyler Sellers, Qualle is a relatively new player on the scene. But it is addressing a major pain point for those looking to move goods from Point A to Point B.
“Currently the process of reusing empty containers for export moves is cumbersome and slow. Our system allows truckers to scale this much easier and efficiently…You just need to connect the dots. Our goal is to get empty containers out of the hands of those who do not need them and into the hands of those who do and so far it’s working,” said Sellers.
The startup, which got off the ground in May of 2022, has already cemented trucking customers working at the ports of LA,Long Beach, New York, New Jersey, Savannah, Houston, and Memphis. The team also recently went through the Plug and Play Tech Center accelerator program in Savannah, Georgia.