Berlin-based cargo.one, a digital booking platform for freight forwarders, has raised $18.6 million in Series A funding to develop its business into a global operating system for air cargo. The fresh capital will help the German company onboard new airlines, grow in additional markets and hire 70 employees, tripling the size of the team by the end of this year.

The round was led by Index Ventures, with the participation of Next47 and prior backers Creandum, Lufthansa Cargo and Point Nine Capital. The VC firms were joined by angel investors, including Tom Stafford of DST Global and Carlos Gonzalez-Cadenas, currently Chief Operating Officer of GoCardless and former Chief Product Officer of Skyscanner. 

The startup cites that although 35 percent of the world’s trade (by value) is transported by plane and air freight generates $100 billion in annual revenue, the process of actually booking such shipments is still buried in manual email threads.

“Right now, booking air cargo is a long and cumbersome manual process, driven by a ‘feel’ of the market, and a short-termist, reactive approach to sales,” said Moritz Claussen, a co-founder of cargo.one.

Fellow co-founder Oliver Neumann added: “The new era of air cargo is being driven by universal access to real-time data. It’s essential that the industry has access to tools that allow players to both respond and anticipate market dynamics.” This is particularly true in the age of COVID-19, when passenger air travel has sunk and airlines are scrambling to replace lost revenue.

Both Claussen and Neumann are managing directors and founded the company in 2017 with Mike Rötgers, the CTO. They became interested in the fragmented logistics market and discovered the potential for cargo.one after interning (for market research purposes) with a freight forwarder. Friends since university, the three entrepreneurs have co-founded other businesses together, including payments company OptioPay.

So far, the booking platform has 12 partner airlines, including Lufthansa, All Nippon Airways, Finnair, Etihad, AirBridgeCargo and TAP Air Portugal, with more on the way. “Conversations with dozens of other airlines in the Americas and Asia show the clear need for a simple booking engine for air cargo,” said Martin Mignot of Index Ventures, “and early signs of the far-reaching impact it will have on the airline industry and businesses around the world who rely on it to serve their customers.”

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