Since the start of the pandemic, the global supply chain has undergone — and is undergoing — immense strain. As of late last month, there were more than 300 ships in China waiting to load up and head to the US, Cargomatic’s Weston LaBar told NPR’s Marketplace. Meanwhile, warehouse space remains at a premium. Experts expect that it’ll be years before the chaos subsides, unless something changes.
Automation can’t overcome these problems — but it can help. At least, that’s the assertion of King Alandy Dy, the founder of Expedock, which uses AI to digitize freight paperwork and categorize it into existing logistics management tools. In a show of investor confidence, Expedock today closed a $13.5 million Series A funding round from Insight Partners, WIN, Decent Capital, Fourth Realm, Neo and Pear, which brings the startup’s total raised to $17.5 million.
“The entire global supply chain today is run by semistructured information and siled data systems. Because of this, these supply chain businesses have extremely limited visibility on their own businesses due to the lack of access to their own data,” Dy told TechCrunch in an email Q&A. “[With Expedock]instead of determining margin on shipments or landed costs on a quarterly basis, customers can see everything live.”
Prior to co-founding Expedock, Dy started Applica, a software-as-a-services platform for managing college admissions. He later joined Intuit as a data connections and machine learning specialist, where he built a dashboard to show “high-value” requests being made by users to drive bank account integrations.
“Jeff Tan, our COO, comes from a family of freight forwarders,” Dy said. “We’ve been running international shipments since we were 15 — Tan and I were familiar with the manual work necessary to process international shipments. [To launch Expedock]I also brought in Rui Aguiar, our CTO and my seatmate in our first computer science class.”
Expedock extracts invoices from shipping account statements in PDFs and emails, creating payable invoices and auditing them against accruals of existing shipments. The platform attempts to reconcile documents with third-party websites and internal systems and spotlight exceptions as they come up, sending the data to transportation management and enterprise resource planning systems.
Dy says that Expedock uses the documents and associated shipment data, augmented by public data and “AI-generated sources,” to train its invoice-extracting systems. AI-powered features on the roadmap include fraud detection in supply chain payments as well as predicting vendor churn and margins.
It’s this application of AI that piqued the interest of Insight Partner’s Connor Guess, he told TechCrunch via email. “With their innovative use of AI to automate the time-consuming documentation process, Expedock is modernizing freight forwarding and reducing inefficiencies to keep goods moving,” said Guess, who’s joining Expedock’s board of directors. “Insight’s bread and butter is software companies driving transformative change in their industries, and that’s exactly what Expedock is doing in the international freight industry.”
While there’s lots of competition in the freight logistics tech space — see Vector.ai and 7bridges, for starters — Dy says that Expedock is currently working with some of the largest brands in the global supply chain, including Wayfair, ClearFreight and Ascent. When asked, he said he’s not concerned about global economic headwinds, given that business has remained steady despite the doom-and-gloom headlines.
Expedock also has the advantage of occupying a sector — transportation and logistics — that’s still seeing a disproportionately high level of investment activity. Supply chain woes have been a windfall for some startups in the segment, with M&A activity for all venture-backed supply-chain and logistics startups reaching $2.7 billion in the US in 2021, a 68% increase from 2019, according to McKinsey.
“Considering the explosive consumption of physical goods and heavier levels of international trade, Expedock has seen its customers moving more and more every single week,” Dy said. “Overall, the general sentiment in the space is that there aren’t enough people to move the goods demanded by the market. There are certainly ups and downs, here, but capacity to move freight is much lower than the demand, so even if this demand continues to drop, we’re still at around 8x the cost of international logistics from before the pandemic.”
Beyond product development, Dy says that Expedock’s focus in the near term will be hiring engineers and account executives and growing the number of integrations on the platform. Expedock employs 13 people today — a number Dy expects will reach 40 by year-end 2022.