Dmitri Amariei and Prateek Gaur solve communication problems. No, not the ones you have with your colleague, spouse, or co-founder. Rather, Dmitri and Prateek focus on communication within the shipping industry. This is the idea behind Cargoflip, an all-in-one platform simplifying international trade for SMEs.
At Seedcamp, we are thrilled to support the Cargoflip team on their journey to disrupt global shipping alongside our friends at Underscore VC and Entrepreneur First. Dmitri and Prateek serve an important need for underserved SMEs, which are the backbone of global trade and have increased importance to play in the post-COVID economy.
“We were excited by the notion that you could basically automate a lot of the legwork for SMEs through document management, information extraction and custom workflows,” our Associate Kyran Schmidt comments. “We saw this as the exciting first step in becoming a centre of gravity for the international trade ecosystem.”
In addition to the market opportunity, we were impressed by Dmitri and Prateek as founders. “We thought their backgrounds as senior operators and builders at some of Europe’s top scale-ups like Delivery Hero, AUTO1 and Taxfix was outstanding,” Kyran goes on to explain, “Given their massive passion for the space, Dmitri and Prateek were awesome founders to go after the opportunity.”
Recently, we got a chance to speak with the Cargoflip founders about their mission, product roadmap, and assessment of the shipping industry’s future. Read the Q&A below.
Tell me more about Cargoflip.
“At its core, logistics is a complex coordination problem.”
— Prateek Gaur, Co-Founder & COO
Dmitri: With Cargoflip, we’re looking at the international trade space. Specifically, we’re looking at small and medium sized businesses. These are guys that, I think, in every industry are getting left behind and wanting to catch up. These smaller guys are still left on email and paper documents. We want to help digitize their workflow and enable them to work in a much more streamlined process.
Prateek: At its core, logistics is a complex communication problem. At Cargoflip, we are the tool that improves collaboration for small businesses and helps them communicate better.
Where did your inspiration for the space come from?
Prateek: My family has been in international trade for two decades now. Recently, I helped my dad expand into Germany. There, I saw first-hand how difficult it is for small businesses to expand to another country or to grow their business internationally. Ever since learning about these pain points, I have had an affinity for helping small business owners.
Often, we think about shipping and SME shipping in particular, as a forgotten industry. What are your thoughts on this?
Dmitri: It is a weird space in that sense. On one hand, it’s a really old-fashioned industry, but on the other hand, you’ve got crazy things happening in it at the top level. There are hydrogen- and solar-powered ships these days. Ports and carriers really do use blockchain-enabled tech. But on the other hand, especially for the SMEs, it’s back to papers, scanned documents, and emails. Although thankfully not that many faxes these days.
Would you say that SMEs are receptive to technological disruption?
Prateek: This is what most people don’t notice about this industry. People think it’s an old-school industry. But in reality, SMEs are very high, early adopters of technology. They are receptive to new technology so long as it fits into their current workflow.
Dmitri: It’s funny — they spark up a little bit when we introduce Cargoflip to them because no one has really given them options to change before. Up until now, no one has gone out to them and said, ‘Hey, listen, we’d really love to talk. What’s bugging you day in, day out? Let us help.’
One of the most exciting aspects of Cargoflip as an investment opportunity for Seedcamp was the strength of your backgrounds. How did you know you were a good match as co-founders?
Prateek: When I met Dmitri, I was already researching the space. But when Dmitri outlined the complex topic, he did it in a process-oriented, data-driven manner. That got my interest. I knew that we basically both like targeting some sort of industry, which people find boring, but gives us space for creativity. I also knew that we both enjoyed making complex things simpler. So that was my love at first sight story.
Dmitri: When Prateek and I first met at Entrepreneur First, we didn’t discuss the actual idea or the logistics and international trade space for at least a week. We just talked about shared values we have, how we approach things, and what we are looking for out of a startup. Once that matched, the rest becomes a lot easier…
What are some of the key lessons you have learned about company building from your years at Taxfix and Hurrier that you have applied to Cargoflip?
“Put fewer roadblocks up and give your team more opportunities to contribute.”
— Dmitri Amariei, Co-Founder & CEO
Dmitri: What I’ve seen over the years is that the people you work with are always going to be the differentiating factor. I think it’s really key to set people up for the opportunity to build themselves up in the startup and enable them to succeed: put fewer roadblocks up and give your team more opportunities to contribute. Empower them.
Prateek: It’s key to choose the right people at an early stage that can actually have the potential to grow with you.
COVID has reshaped countless sectors, including international shipping. What has the impact been on the industry and your work at Cargoflip?
Dmitri: Patterns of actual shipping have changed a lot. In some way, that has caused SME businesses to really look at who they’re using as their shipping partners and who are the most adaptable. They can no longer use some of their old-school people that have been reliable in the past. They’re just not enough right now. They need a lot more flexibility with COVID because things change so rapidly week over week. So there’s a new urge for digital tools to help them figure out how to deal with all these changes.
You have a fantastic pre-seed coming together with Seedcamp, Underscore VC from Boston, and EF. What were the most important things you were looking for from your investors when fundraising?
Dmitri: We were looking for great people that can support us and help us with strategic connections. It’s funny. We didn’t plan for it but it’s really great that we have both Seedcamp, a European-focused firm, and Underscore, an American fund, supporting us. And, of course, we are based in Canada. That reflects what we’re trying to do: we’re dealing with international trade and so it’s amazing to have partners around the globe who can set us up for success.
Where do you see Cargoflip three years down the line?
Dmitri: For us, Cargoflip has always been about the data we’re getting from our clients and how we are going to use that data to enable them. Yes, workflows is what we’re starting with. But we want to get to a point where we can use that data to actually make meaningful connections between people in this industry. Because that’s the overarching thing here. We really want to get to the part where we can start to make new, meaningful connections between people.
Prateek: More immediately, our biggest current focus is hiring, trying to get the right people in. That’s the only way we can get to where we want to go.
If you’re as excited as the Seedcamp team about Cargoflip’s mission to solve communication barriers for SMEs within the shipping industry, check out their hiring opportunities here.