Amazon’s logistics helpers are repositioning themselves

Dusseldorf The logistics start-up Forto, which until a few weeks ago was still called Freighthub, is reorganizing its management. To this end, the Berlin-based company is strengthening itself with an experienced manager from the logistics giant Amazon. While co-founder Ferry Heilemann leaves the management, Christoper North joins the management team as a consultant. The platform expert had led Amazon’s European business from the UK for five years.

Forto was co-founded in 2016 by the brothers and series founders Ferry and Fabian Heilemann. It passes on transport capacities for land, air and sea freight. In addition, it develops software that covers the entire logistics process from ordering to delivery to the warehouse.

In April 2019, the company closed its $ 30 million financing round B. Forto is one of the most ambitious German tech companies in the business customer sector and is driving the digitization of industry.

Co-founder Ferry Heilemann will resign from his position as CEO at the beginning of June, however, and will only support the company as chairman of the shareholders’ council in the future. The remaining management team consisting of co-founders Michael Wax and Erik Muttersbach and COO Michael Ardelt will lead the company as co-managing directors.

“I’m good at starting companies,” Heilemann told Handelsblatt. In the first four and a half years, he had helped the company to attract talent, to help shape the culture and to raise funds. “We now see ourselves on an equal footing with larger competitors,” said Heilemann.

Forto has grown strongly in the corona crisis. “The current situation allowed our company to experience tailwind,” said co-founder Michael Wax. The already ambitious growth plans would be exceeded. Forto expects sales growth of 100 to 110 percent from the first to the second quarter.

The company also benefits from its modern customer base, which is heavily active in online trading. Slumps in brick-and-mortar retail therefore had little impact on Forto’s business.

Logistics for Amazon dealers

An important business area for the company are services for trading partners of the US group Amazon. The retail giant is one of the biggest winners of the crisis. “We are already one of the best-known service providers for Amazon marketplace participants across Europe,” said Wax. “We help these companies to import goods from China, Thailand, Indonesia to Germany and Europe as smoothly as possible and then sell them via the platform.”

With the success of Amazon, the corresponding Forto business also grew. The company wants to build on this in the future. Also with the help of a manager who is very familiar with Amazon and its business model.

Christopher North should support Forto as a strategy consultant in the future. In total, he worked for the company for ten years. During this time, it introduced delivery on the same day, among other things. Christopher North has helped the company grow 14 times in the UK, Michael Wax said. There are many similarities between the business models. “We are pleased that we were able to win someone with him who has already gone through these scaling steps and can support us.”

With North’s decision, the company also sees its own relevant position in a growing field of digital logistics providers confirmed. Because the company is not alone in this segment. The Berlin online shipping company Sennder was able to raise $ 100 million in growth capital last year.

Another ambitious market player is the forwarding company Instafreight. The start-up process and the commitment of the investors show how much potential is seen in the digitization of the industry. Competitors are also entering the market from abroad. And the established freight forwarders are willing to play their role in the future of logistics too. Forto also invests in the Danish shipping company Maersk, the world’s largest sea container transporter. Well-known start-up investors are also among the donors.

Forto management also demonstrated that digital logistics was superior in times of crisis. “In dynamic times like today, it is important to have the right data at all times in order to make the right decision. We can deliver that, ”said Michael Ardelt.

Delivery routes in real time

By digitally mapping the entire delivery process, customers could have responded to the latest developments in the pandemic at any time – for example, problems with truck transport in China, the closure of airports and the closing of borders.

While in the past, logistics customers would only have received a table once a week with information about when their goods would arrive where, today they could go to the Forto platform at any time and see exactly where their goods are.

“I can switch from air freight to ocean freight again in the delivery process because I know exactly where my goods are,” explains Head of Technology Erik Muttersbach. Or the customer decides to leave his cargo in China because the warehouse is still full and he cannot currently sell it.

Ferry Heilemann does not want to deal with such questions in the future. “Passion and expertise in logistics technology are playing an increasingly important role in corporate management,” he said. But: “For me personally, the climate crisis has become the biggest issue within the past five years.” Last year, the founder launched the “Leaders for climate action” initiative, in which German start-ups in particular opposed the Engage in climate change.

Does that bite too much with the topic of logistics? No, says Heilemann: “Forto makes a big contribution in the fight against climate change and, as a company, is climate neutral from the start. I will continue to support Forto along the way. ”

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