The Top 5 Digital Contenders…and Meryl Streep

I confess. I did not participate at the TPM 2018 in Long Beach. The snow in my drive way did not remove itself, so I have been pretty occupied with that during the duration of it.

However, I have been able to follow a lot of the discussions via social media and in particular the launch of the “Top 5 Digital Contenders” caught my attention, as it is a space I have some experience with, so here are my 2 cents…

I think the choice of Kuehne+Nagel in the “incumbent” category is a safe bet. Like voting for Meryl Streep at the Oscars. You could probably have chosen Maersk Line or CMA CGM as well, but on the other hand K+N have just launched KN ESP and Sea Explorer heavily based on their daughter company, LogIndex’ data capabilities. It is still early days for these initiatives, but they are telling the market, not least startups such as Flexport, that they do not intend to just sit around and wait, which, of course, no-one expected them to either. They are after all K+N.

Blockshipping is, well, new on the block. They have recently launched their ICO and is according to rumours (and ICObench) going very well. Their aim is to become the platform on which shipping is done. The same aim as the IBM-Maersk JV has, along with a number of others. Although slightly different in functionality, then INTTRA is the biggest in that space today, and globally there is realistically room for 2-3 of these platforms. Blockshipping could very well be one of them, but I think it will be another 2-3 years before we start to get a clearer picture.

I have personally always been impressed by Patrik and the team at Xeneta. The way they have gone about their business and built up a gold mine of crowd sourced pricing data is just world class. The interesting thing will be to see if they are capable of coming up with products on top of the subscription model. After all, they have by far the best insight into the global freight development of anyone out there – and yes, the supply/demand imbalance is a chronic problem for the carriers, but the prevailing pricing mechanisms even more so. There is at least potential there, and they have the most data…

In the “Cloud based” category, Octopi is the one I know the least about. However, given they sell SaaS solutions to terminals I can hardly argue against them and the co-founder, Luc Castera, gives the traditional “why SaaS”-speech in this feature from Port Technology. In my book, there is one aspect that actually plays an even greater part, and that is that most terminals are JVs. Operated by one of the big players but (almost always) with local ownership interests, making them their own little kingdoms (exaggerating of course), which makes a common global IT infrastructure virtually impossible. By moving to a SaaS platform, you can actually get that, as each individual terminal can share their “development costs” through the “subscription fee” instead and share a software platform, that they just don’t have the IP rights to – but that isn’t where they win or lose business anyway.

Kontainers has like Xeneta been annoying spell checks around the world for a while. They were initially known for having by far the best user interface of any of the newcomers, but have over the last 18-24 months moved from being a digital freight forwarder to becoming a pure software player with focus on providing (SaaS) solutions to carriers and forwarders. And of course, they bring all the startup speed – and hype – that customers and in particular board rooms are asking for.

So in conclusion, although I initially tried to disagree with the choices, I really couldn’t. Yes, there could have been others selected, but you have to make some choices, and they can’t all be Meryl Streep…

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