From healthcare to manufacturing, traditional industries have been undergoing digital transformation for the past decade. But some sectors are lagging behind. Fabian Fusek, CEO and founder of Caico Systems, argues that shipping is “the final frontier of digitization.”
Kaiko Systems is a Berlin-based startup trying to digitize operations on commercial ships. 90% of the world’s trade goods are carried by ocean, but an industry with such a vital role in the global economy is still heavily reliant on pen, paper and Excel, said Fusek, a former Deloitte consultant. The manual process means maintenance and fleet inspections are expensive, inefficient and prone to human error, he added.
Fusek in 2010 Caico Systems, founded in 2020 with Eddy Del Valle, the former CTO of Freight Forwarding Unicorn, offers shippers, front-line workers and supervisors a smartphone-based tool to collect operational data on board. In turn, Kaiko’s built-in artificial intelligence can ensure data integrity in a timely manner and flag problems to onshore teams. For example, when the system detects a newly applied part that is the cause of damage in a ship, it can identify all other ships that may be exposed to the same vulnerability.
While Fusek declined to share the company’s financial performance, the CEO said the sign is “very positive” and the startup is “on a strong path to profitability.” To date, the company has conducted more than 10,000 inspections for nearly 250 vessels worldwide. Some of her notable clients include Columbia Shipping Management (one of the largest private shipping companies in the world), Marlow Navigation, USC Barnkrug, CTM and The Asian Spirit Steamship Company.
The early traction helped the startup close a €2 million seed fund backed by industry giants. Investors Scholer Holdings (the parent company behind Columbia Shipping), Vineta Ventures, A-Round Capital, Flagship founders and industry veterans Klaasen Rickmers, Managing Partner at The Asian Spirit Steamship Company, and Justus Kniffka, CEO and CEO of shipping company Hastic They include executive. Lloyd
As for why ocean shipping is a latecomer to digitization, Fusek speculates that margins in the industry were slim until recently. In 2021, the average price of a typical large container shipment reached $10,000, but from 2015 to 2020, the number was mostly below $2,000. The rise in prices is partly due to increased global consumption, the closure of ports due to Covid-19 and supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, the founder explained.
“Delivery companies are finally making their long overdue investment in digitization,” Fusek said. In addition to more money to boost productivity, the Covid-induced travel disruption has made digitization even more urgent as inspectors can no longer physically travel from ship to ship.
With the new capital infusion, Kaiko Systems plans to grow its team, improve its software solutions and expand into new markets beyond its existing footprints in Germany, Greece and East Asia. Fusek believed that scaling across geographies would not be particularly challenging due to the high level of standardization of ocean freight. The company employs 10 people worldwide and plans to double its headcount in the coming months.