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Innovator: “I don’t like to talk about disruptions. Cargo is moving. Let’s just do it better”

Martyn Verhaegen, Founder and Owner at Qwyk

PortandTerminal.com, April 30, 2019

Freight forwarding is a huge industry. In the United States alone there are around 21,000 freight forwarding companies with combined annual revenue of $60 billion. The industry’s international trade association FIATA has membership of 40,000 forwarding and logistics companies, who together employ 8 to 10 million people in 150 countries (and that’s probably just scratching the surface).

The top freight forwarders in the world are companies that you are probably familiar with already. DHL, Kuehne + Nagel and DB Schenker. These were the top 3 forwarders globally in 2018 with a combined revenue of $69 billion (Armstrong & Associates).

Qwyk’s business model is to help the small and medium-sized freight forwarders that you have probably never heard of. And as we saw earlier, that’s a very big market indeed. Qwyk already includes some of the big players as customers but has its eyes clearly set on the small to medium-sized players in freight forwarding at scale.

Qwyk wants to become the eBay for freight forwarding companies

Where is Qwyk headed? Think of Qwyk as being like eBay for freight forwarding companies. If you are a shipping company with spare capacity, you simply post your offer on Qwyk in the same way a vendor would offer a product on eBay. Let’s say for example you have 4 empty containers sitting in Newark that are available for outbound shipping to Houston on such and such date. Post your offer on Qwyk to find a buyer.

If you’re a freight forwarder and need to move product from Point A to Point B for a customer, you simply enter your requirements into the Qwyk platform and it returns back to you a list of offers for you to choose from.

Qwyk user panel
Once you have input your shipping requirements into the user panel, Qwyk returns a list of offers for you to move your cargo

Is Qwyk a disruption?

Martyn Verhaegen perhaps modestly would say no. “I don’t like to talk about disruptions. Cargo is moving already. Let’s just do it better” Martyn said when we asked him the question.

If however, you are a small to medium sized freight forwarding company without a massive IT budget to build your own online system like the one Martyn has put together for you, then yes, Qwyk might be a very positive disruption in the way you do business.

PortandTerminal.com had the opportunity to speak with Martyn to find out more about Qwyk.

Q&A with Martyn Verhaegen

Photo Martyn Verhaegen, Founder and Owner at Qwyk speaking at Tech Stars
Martyn Verhaegen, Founder and Owner at Qwyk

How traditionally have freight forwarders worked to find the best schedules and prices for moving their clients’ cargo from Point A to Point B? 

MV: For rates: over the years there have been a number of ways I believe this has been done, but it’s been largely a manual process of gathering rates from carriers and making a decision based on that.

Within the last decade, there have been a number of systems in use, proprietary or third-party, that have helped in consolidating procurement data (contracts, etc.) and allowing internal users to browse through and query those.

However, getting the data into those systems still requires a manual effort at some point in the chain.

At Qwyk we’ve not been focussed on the actual rate management, there are a number of companies in the market which solve that problem to various degrees. In terms of schedules: either you have a bunch of PDFs and spreadsheets you’ve received from the carrier and you browse through those, or you go online and find it on their website.

Meanwhile, there have been a number of providers which have offered to sell schedule data to freight forwarders for integration in their systems. This may have helped somewhat but there was still the problem of making the selection: I might already know I use carrier X’s service Y on lane Z but the data I get from the provider includes all the sailings of all the carriers they have connected with. Not only do I still need to transform this into something useful -which is resource intensive- I’m not also ingesting, and paying for, tons of data I don’t actually need and probably won’t use. With Schedules, Qwyk solves the entire problem: we have the data and we allow our customers to create what they need in a repeatable way without having to spend time and resources on a regular basis.

Let’s say that I am a medium sized Freight Forwarder and want to start using Qwyk. What’s the on-boarding procedure like? How long does it take? What would I need to provide you to get up and running? 

MV: So the Schedule generation works on this set of rules we call the Routing Guide and that obviously needs to be set up to get you started. How long that takes really depends on whether you already have that data and, if you don’t, on how complex your decisions are. Let’s say for all destinations you use Maersk out of the Americas, MSC out of Europe, and CMA out of Asia, you’ll be set up in about 5 minutes.

As the scale increases and it becomes more complex it will take a bit more time to get it set up but we’ve worked hard to build the system in such a way that it’s easy to create those rules.  Moreover, if you already have some spreadsheet that lists what carriers you use on which trade lanes, it’s a simple copy-paste and possible some mapping and you can upload that into our systems.   Generally, during onboarding we’ll ask our new customers to provide any internal file they have, we’ll do the first time setup for them to get the basics right and then they can carry on making modifications and additions as needed.

What numbers or data would you give our readers to help them to understand your early traction in the market with Qwyk?

MV: What I think speaks most is the number of top 20 global logistics companies we have using our products now although I would like to see us expanding more in the medium-sized segment of the market. I think there are lots to gain for those companies by smartly applying technology to stay current and competitive. An additional data point I’ve been personally very proud of was Qwyk’s acceptance into and participation in the TechStars accelerator program in Kansas City last year, that opportunity particularly has added value beyond what I could initially imagine. All considered I think Qwyk’s pretty early in the startup lifecycle and so we’re very ambitious to accelerate our growth.

Would you tell us a bit about your own story? What’s your background? How did you come up with the idea for Qwyk? Have you had any help along the way?

MV: I got my start in transport and logistics pretty early, having grown up near Rotterdam its what I decided to pursue as my career after high school so my college education was focussed on that. I was fortunate to end up with a company in the industry that was pretty great when it comes to providing opportunities to grow and advance, and so through a somewhat convoluted way, I ended up in their IT department. I’d gotten a start teaching myself software development in the years before and so this was a neat place to apply my industry knowledge and coding skills and become better at both, the company itself was going through a number of IT transformations so there were opportunities for that.

I think it’s hard for established corporations to innovate though, having to deal with tons of legacy, expectations, and general inertia and so having transitioned through a number of challenging and interesting positions in that company, at one point I felt I was personally better suited to working in an environment where there was less of that. During my time there I’d been developing ideas around problems and opportunities for technologically supported innovations in this industry as part of my day-to-day activities, and so combining those things with knowing a successful entrepreneur who himself had operated a tech company for logistics, and was willing to take a chance on me and my ideas by helping with initial funding and contacts, led me to start Qwyk.

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