Voyager secures $1.5 million seed funding to transform the $360 billion global bulk shipping industry
The $360 billion global bulk shipping industry is currently rife with losses from low productivity, human error and lost opportunities. Enter Voyager, a tech startup on a mission to modernize the industry for improved maritime communications and operational efficiencies along shipping value chain, freeing from email, fax, phone and text.
Today, Voyager announced it has closed $1.5 million seed funding round to to expand the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) network’s offerings, further acquire and expand its customer base, and grow its engineering, development, marketing and sales teams. The round was co-led by ATX Venture Partners, by ATX Venture Partners, Blue Bear Capital, GreenHawk Capital, and Phaze Ventures.
Founded in 2018, Voyager is a cloud-based workflow management solution for the bulk shipping value chain. Voyager allows users to invite their partners, colleagues and counter-parties into a single environment to coordinate the execution of bulk shipping operations. By moving from phone and email to a fully digitized communication platform our clients gain full visibility of the value chain with complete traceability of all activity and operations.
Voyager enables the bulk commodity shipping market to operate in a unified and digital environment to coordinate critical and complex maritime operations for high value raw materials. The company is headquartered in Houston, Texas, and the management team has more than 40 years experience in maritime, bulk commodities industry and technology.
“Shipping bulk commodities like crude oil, gas and petrochemicals is still a highly manual and complex process, with $360 billion in ocean freight managed globally by email, phone, fax and text in a high-volume, fast-paced environment. Data is decentralized and unstructured, and the process is rife with inefficiencies, lost opportunities, costly human errors and, overarchingly, billions in losses,” said Matthew Costello, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Voyager. “This infusion of capital will propel us forward in our mission to modernize and optimize the massive bulk shipping ecosystem with seamless, multi-party collaboration to help companies grow their sales and eliminate costly operational errors.”
Current partners of Voyager’s include Equinor, Norway’s leading energy operator, and other companies on the platform spanning brokerage, terminal, agency, ship-owning and major producers. The company was founded in 2018 by Costello and his Co-Founder Bret Smart, Chief Operating Officer, who together bring deep expertise in the bulk commodity industry from managing shipping lanes for one of the world’s largest chemical and parcel tanker companies, Stolt-Nielsen, to running IT projects for shipping fleets and conducting M&A analysis for chemical terminals. From their work in maritime, Costello and Smart executed a study that showed roughly 40 percent of employee time in the industry was spent on low-value and low-complexity tasks, such as manual data entry, error checking documents and forwarding. Realizing this was a global problem that impacts the entire maritime value chain of brokers, shipowners, producers and terminals, the founders devised the Voyager SaaS solution for streamlined operations and improved communications. Previous investors include Techstars and Knightsgate Ventures, among others.
Bulk commodity shipping is responsible for the transportation of trillions of dollars in raw materials such as crude, oils, gas, grain and metals, and 99 percent of these valuable shipments are managed by phone, email, fax and text. One shipment alone generates more than 4,000 emails and hundreds of documents with at least 10 companies working together across time zones. Teams are overloaded and employees’ time is wasted sorting, filing and reviewing emails. Mistakes are frequent and costly, and notably, more than 95 percent of a company’s data is sitting in folders, spreadsheets, PDFs and inboxes, inaccessible to the company and users at scale. Human error is rampant, as are lost sales opportunities and communications; poor customer service; customs penalties; and limited visibility leading to suboptimal decision making.
With Voyager, companies can finally unlock their teams productivity, reduce operational risk and costs, and provide business and management with greater insights into supply chain seasonality, schedule variability and operational performance. The industry is taking note with one company identifying over $4 million in annual bottom line savings by moving their business to Voyager and another identifying $1.5 million annually. As well, a large oil and gas client identified a 30 percent operational expenditures (OpEX) improvement by moving their teams to Voyager.
Unlike other solutions in the industry, Voyager was built from the ground up to seamlessly allow multiple companies to work together in a real-time, shared environment to manage, track and analyze the lifecycle of a shipment’s voyage without sacrificing security or privacy. The Voyager multi-party approach means large companies can provide access to and scale the product across their network in a matter of days. Interactions across the network can be managed email-free via web dashboard and app, long communication chains eliminated, and all of a shipment’s voyage information easily available with just one click. Future capabilities will involve improving product accessibility and integrations along the shipping value chain, while expanding analytics and Machine Learning capabilities.
“Voyager’s solution will become even more critical as autonomous shipping and Internet- and IoT-enabled cargo ships pick up steam globally, in turn, creating new data and technology requirements that will require the power of our platform,” said Costello. “As well, applications for Voyager are already being explored across other verticals within oil and gas. As industries move away from email to digital-based communication, Voyager will become a critical system of engagement.”
“Opportunities for innovation in maritime abound, as the need for technological advancements exist in one of the world’s biggest industries. Voyager is poised to be the leader in maritime operations. The founders have extensive expertise in liquid, dry and gas bulk shipping globally in all facets of the value chain, experiencing its pain points first hand. The Voyager cloud platform stands to bring global transactions and communications into the modern era – poised to save the bulk shipping industry billions,” said Chris Shonk, Managing Partner at ATX Venture Partners.
“People are used to seeing multicolored shipping containers and reading about investments in container freight technology, but few realize there is an industry four times larger by volume that forms the building blocks of global trade and drives container traffic – maritime bulk shipping,” said Tim Kopra, partner at Blue Bear Capital. “Voyager has its pulse on this critical sector, and has created a technology to fundamentally improve how the entire bulk shipping ecosystem communicates and operates with each other.”