Written by Marina Hadjipateras
90% of the world’s trade is conducted by sea. 90%. And while we may not see or think about the shipping industry on a daily basis, at any given moment an astronomical number of products move across the globe on ships delivering to customers who include, among many others, manufacturers, retailers, and individuals like you or I, waiting for our packages. But despite its massive impact on the world at large, the shipping industry has been reticent to establish digital fluency. While we are starting to see recent innovation in shipping through AI-enabled technology platforms like Nautilus Labs, many processes are still done manually, in dense excel spreadsheets or even by pen and paper.
Enter our latest investment, Portcast, a new platform that’s helping transform the way cargo moves across the world. Building on AI and other new tech from recent years, Portcast leverages nuanced predictive analysis to take digitally-enabled optimization even further — approaching logistics and supply chain through a customer-first lens. Portcast serves those who seek greater visibility into their supply chains: the manufacturers, vendors, freight forwarders, logistics companies, and retailers who place a premium on reliability for themselves and their customers. Portcast’s ability to provide actionable reasons behind their predictive data empowers even small business owners to compete.
Here’s How it Works
Portcast predicts two critical parameters of logistics: demand (how many containers move from Point A to Point B) and planning (when the containers will arrive). The company generates predictive analytics by taking nuanced data from multiple categories, such as weather, geospatial, and world events. These predictions offer customers a unique ability to anticipate how external disruptions — predictable and unpredictable — will impact logistics and to solve problems in real time. By leveraging geo-tracking, cloud computing and machine learning, Portcast’s technology eliminates much of the industry’s manual work that is still done today.
How it Started
Portcast was founded by Nidhi Gupta. After receiving her undergraduate degree in computer science and then completing her MBA, Nidhi worked in logistics for courier giant DHL, where she led management consulting and strategy teams across Asia. As she learned the complex and varied nuances of supply chain, she began to hone in on the critically important (and conspicuously absent) digitization and tech that could move the industry forward. She discovered a like-minded co-founder, Dr. Lingxiao Xia, who has a background in machine learning and product development. Together, they developed an idea to make global supply chains more predictive and dynamic — and Portcast was born.
What Makes Portcast Unique
Portcast combines multiple data points to provide its customers with a single source of truth regarding vessel and container arrival times, generating end-to-end predictions from the port of loading to the port of discharge. The company dives deep into predictive analysis, delivering not only accessible and digestible data, but also the reasons behind it. This transparency instills deep trust with partners, and empowers them to pivot thoughtfully and with precision according to why, not just the mere fact that a shipment might be delayed or misrouted.
Portcast is also making an increased impact on the reduction of fuel emissions; today, the company provides data on emissions per container, and plans to extend to emission tracking by SKU — a remarkable level of specificity. They even provide prescriptive information on how to increase sustainability in shipping: for example, Portcast can suggest a greener route, and offer sustainability assessments of any given ship, shipping company or both.
On the Horizon
Portcast, as Nidhi describes it, is a data science company. Their vision is to eventually enable other segments outside of logistics, such as insurance or compliance, to create sophisticated products that are built to streamline the network effects of global shipping (one example would be nuanced risk insurance). We at TMV are excited to see the adjacencies that emerge.
We asked Nidhi what advice she’d give to founders who are just starting out. Here’s what she had to say:
- “Keep your eye on the customer, and your focus on who will be using your tech. If it’s not moving the needle for the customer, it won’t generate value.
- Build an A-team of experts across industries, and make sure every single person has what it takes to move your idea forward.
- Connect with your existing network. Create a new one. Build relationships everywhere you turn.”
Learn more at portcast.io
TMV is an early-stage venture firm that invests in purposeful startups reimagining the future.
If you are building an innovative business of the future or if you are an investor who believes in the power of community and operational commitment, we want to hear from you. Find us at firstname.lastname@example.org