The private markets are constantly evolving, and new spaces rise—then sometimes fall—in the span of a few years. Given this fluidity, it can be challenging to identify and track the most promising spaces of tomorrow. That’s why our analysts have developed a methodology to define and categorize these emerging spaces. In this post, we look at digital freight brokerages—just one example of a space that is quickly taking off.

What are digital freight brokerages?

Digital freight brokerages are online marketplaces that connect shipping entities and truckers via mobile apps. Traditionally, shippers and carriers operate within a disaggregated network of 15,000 freight brokers responsible for connecting trucking companies and truckers with potential shipping loads. Most deals are coordinated by phone or fax, taking hours or days to confirm. With digital freight brokerages, companies more efficiently match shipper demand with carriers’ capacity, connecting the two directly and removing the need for a middleman.

Startups in this emerging space use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make predictions about supply and demand to make the market more efficient. Centralizing processes and procedures through an app ecosystem means that carriers need to access fewer channels to find shipping demand and that these channels are easier to interact with. Some digital freight brokers are using their own truck equipment pools to speed up the movement of cargo and help boost productivity across the transportation chain. In this model, truckers show up, hitch their cabs to pre-loaded trailers and get back on the road almost immediately. As a result, these efficiencies can shave hours off of the typical shipping process.

While many transportation and logistics companies had digitalization strategies in place pre-pandemic, the market volatility and challenges presented by COVID-19 led many players to accelerate their implementation of digital freight platforms. By reshaping freight lanes, reducing driver capacity and increasing consumer demand, the pandemic turned digital supply chains into a necessity for ensuring timely shipments and maintaining shipper-carrier relationships.

Quick stats

 
Leading companies

28

Deals

120

Capital invested

$16.96B

Investors

297

Key growth metrics

$5.83B

Capital invested (TTM)
 
▴ + 152.58 YoY

$12.39M

Median deal size (TTM)
 
▴ +100.28% YoY

$1.10B

Median post valuation (TTM)
 
▴ 39.39% YoY

Trending digital freight brokerage companies

Echo Global Logistics

HQ: Chicago, IL
Leadership: David Menzel, Chief Operating Officer and President
Latest deal: Buyout/LBO (November 2021)

Founded in 2005, Echo Global Logistics is a third-party logistics provider, connecting shipping entities to carriers who transport goods. Their proprietary technology leverages AI, machine learning and advanced load matching algorithms, offering a robust transportation management system that optimizes efficiency and cost-effectiveness for both shippers and carriers. The company was recently acquired by The Jordan Company through a public-to-private buyout in November 2021.
 

Full Truck Alliance

HQ: Nanjing, China
Leadership: Hui Zhang, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman
Latest deal: IPO (June 2021)

Full Truck Alliance (FTA) is the leading digital freight platform in China, specializing in the full-truck-load segment. Its mobile platform provides matchmaking services to truck drivers, shippers and third-party logistics providers, optimizing efficiency by reducing costs and empty return loads. The company made its initial public offering in June 2021.
 

Uber Freight

HQ: San Francisco, CA
Leadership: Lior Ron, Chief Executive Officer
Latest deal: Early-stage VC (November 2021)

Uber Freight’s logistics management platform matches truck drivers with available load capacities. Through their mobile application, carriers have access to upfront pricing, instant booking and facility ratings while shipping entities can access trusted carriers, instant quotes and real-time tracking. The platform allows both parties to reliably meet logistics timelines and streamline operations.
 

Most active investors in digital freight brokerage companies

Acequia Capital

HQ: Seattle, WA
Digital freight brokerage investments: 5
Last deal date: January 2022

Founded in 2010, Acequia Capital is a venture capital firm that prefers seed-stage, early-stage, and later-stage investments in the consumer products, consumer services and information technology sectors.
 

Maersk Growth

HQ: Copenhagen, Denmark
Digital freight brokerage investments: 4
Last deal date: January 2022

Maersk Growth is the corporate venture capital arm of A.P. Moeller-Maersk. With the mission to digitize and decarbonize supply chains, the firm prefers investments in the sustainable supply chain, smart logistics and enabled trade sectors.
 

Lightspeed India Partners

HQ: New Delhi, India
Digital freight brokerage investments: 4
Last deal date: December 2021

Lightspeed India Partners Advisors is a venture capital firm that focuses on several stages and sectors, including both tech opportunities and non-technology businesses. The firm prefers investments in the consumer services, healthcare, education, advertising and retail sectors.

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