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Startup bringing productivity to Brazil’s cargo transportation receives US$35 million investment

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Logistics is one of Brazil’s largest markets: the country spends the equivalent of 12.7% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the sector, from storage to transportation. In the United States, for instance, the rate is 7.8%.

Cobli is one of the startups with an eye on this market – specifically on the over 10 million commercial vehicles in Brazil. The startup takes productivity to cargo transportation through hardware and software – and has just attracted a new investment. On Wednesday, July 21, Cobli announced its series B investment.

The US$35 million investment was led by SoftBank, which has already invested in logistics startups such as Doordash, Loggi and Rappi. The funding was complemented by Qualcomm Ventures fund and prior investors Fifth Wall, NXTP Ventures and Valor Capital.

Cobli’s co-founders Parker Treacy and Rodrigo Mourad. (Photo internet reproduction)

The logistics startup will use the funds for product development and hiring. Co-founder Rodrigo Mourad explains Cobli’s business model and the startup’s next steps.

Productivity in cargo transportation

Cobli was founded by entrepreneurs Parker Treacy and Rodrigo Mourad in 2017. Mourad is a production engineer and has worked with logistics at multinational P&G, investment bank Morgan Stanley, and consulting firm Bain & Company. But his parents were his greatest inspiration, as they had their own small businesses.

“I always had a sense of the ups and downs of a business. After about 7 years in business, I saw how logistics worked in practice and wanted to start an impact enterprise,” Mourad says.

On the other hand, Treacy is American and founded a vehicle financing company for newly arrived immigrants to the United States in the past. While taking an MBA at Harvard University, Parker met a friend of Mourad’s and the entrepreneurs were introduced to each other.

“We wanted to venture into logistics, and Brazil’s lag in the industry was clear compared to the United States. Cobli was founded to apply the best technologies in Brazilian commercial transportation, bringing productivity,” Mourad adds.

The startup has three areas of activity: hardware, software, and data analysis. Cobli installs sensors and cameras in commercial vehicles. Through the Internet of Things (IoT), the data collected is stored in a cloud computing software. Some examples are location and driving behavior.

The data is processed and connected to other databases, thereby generating valuable data for the companies served. The data can be accessed through an app, email, or website. The companies pay a monthly fee of less than R$100 per vehicle.

“Hiring Cobli becomes a competitive differential. We help services and deliveries to arrive cheaper, faster, and more safely,” Mourad says. According to Cobli, 83% of fleet operators in the region still manage their fleets and processes analogically. They use non-integrated tools such as Excel, WhatsApp and even maps, paper and pen.

The co-founder offers some examples: a transport company can have its fuel prices reduced by up to 30% because Cobli cross-references the route taken with the prices registered at gas stations by benefits provider Alelo. An ambulance company has a reduction of up to 50% in service time because Cobli helps with traffic data and contact with the patient and the hospital. It is a database made up of over 1 billion kilometers traveled.

Cobli serves 3,000 companies in over 150 Brazilian cities, with “tens of thousands of commercial vehicles.” The companies served range from small businesses, such as ice cream parlors and stores that install air conditioning, to giants such as Mobly. There are more than 150 industries served, from ambulances to e-commerce companies to maintenance and telecommunications services.

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased demand for Cobli.

“Transportation professionals are out in the field and come back to warehouses fewer times, so the flow of personal communication has worsened or vanished. We emerged as a solution to digitize conversations and information, providing greater process transparency. This demand for more technology has come mainly for companies to retain customers. People order more and more over the Internet and expect their product to be tracked and to be delivered on time,” Mourad says.

New investment, new plans

The first investment Cobli received was a Series A US$10 (R$50) million investment. The R$175 million Series B investment will be used for product development and hiring.

Cobli plans to upgrade its sensors and cameras and capture even more data. “We can create specific products with better pricing. For example, we already have partnerships with insurance companies to which we provide our data and they will be able to design policies that can cost much less depending on the driver’s behavior and how many deliveries he or she makes per month,” Mourad says.

The logistics startup has 200 employees and hopes to reach 500 by the end of 2022. “We will invest not only in hiring but also in technical training and growth-oriented processes. We need structure to keep up the fast pace.”

“We invest in companies that we believe will define their categories by leveraging disruptive technologies. Led by an exceptional team, Cobli is helping drive the evolution of the transportation and logistics industry in Latin America. We are excited to join and support this mission to bring data, insights and efficiency to fleets across the region,” Matt Pieterse, an investor at SoftBank, said in a statement about the investment.

“In the last decade, connected vehicles have become one of the most important drivers of transformation for the automotive and logistics industries,” Michel Glezer, director of Qualcomm Ventures, added in the same statement.

“Cobli’s fleet management solution is easy to use and helps increase operational efficiency and visibility for Latin American fleets. We are excited to invest in Cobli to expedite the adoption of connected fleets, further driving growth in the automotive and logistics sectors.”

Cobli grew by more than 100% in the 2019 to 2020 comparison. In 2021 and 2022, the startup expects to maintain the rate.

“The logistics market is huge and there is no shortage of opportunities. Everything depends on our speed, which is why we decided to advance our Series B round by a few months. We thought about fundraising at the end of this year, but we realized that our clients have issues now and decided to work faster. We already had a good connection with SoftBank and Qualcomm,” Mourad says.

In the long term, Cobli plans to expand to the rest of Latin America, increasing the market from 10 million commercial vehicles to about 27 million, according to the startup’s co-founder. “Other countries in the region have an even lower adoption of technology in their fleets than Brazil,” Mourad says. The plan should start only from 2023 – until then, the focus is fully on bringing more productivity to Brazilian fleets.

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