How logistics startup Beacon won backing from US tech billionaires Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, and Travis Kalanick to disrupt a $140 billion industry

  • Logistics startup Beacon has raised £15 million in a fundraising round backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. 
  • The UK firm, which aims to disrupt the world of international freight shipping, has previously been backed by Uber founder Travis Kalanick and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt. 
  • The global freight forwarding industry was valued at around £140 billion in 2016, according to data from market research firm Transport Intelligence. 
  • Beacon CEO Fraser Robinson told Business Insider how a "network effect" of key investors helped him bring on some of the best-known entrepreneurs in the world. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Beacon, the UK logistics startup aiming to disrupt the world of freight shipping, has raised £15 million in a Series A fundraising round backed by Amazon CEO and world's richest person Jeff Bezos.  Founded in 2018 by Fraser Robinson, a former senior exec at Uber, the firm is working to optimize the international shipping industry, which he says has failed to digitize in an increasingly online world.  The global freight shipping industry was valued at around £140 billion in 2016, according to research conducted by Transport Intelligence, but is expected to take a hit due to the economic effects of COVID-19. 

Comparing the industry to old-school travel agents, Robinson told Business Insider: "Once upon a time, they would look at you and say: 'Why would anyone want to book a flight on their phone?'  "But where the travel industry has been completely transformed over the last 20 years, freight forwarding has been somewhat stuck in the past."  Beacon provides businesses that ship goods from abroad with an interactive dashboard, allowing them to track items from around the world, keep in touch with those carrying them, and keep on top of the relevant cashflow. 

Having been recruited by Uber cofounders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp to run the firm's EMEA operations in 2014, the pair later agreed to invest in Beacon's seed round last year - alongside former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  "Having worked at Uber, having their validation and support was incredibly valuable," said Robinson. "And, of course, it's in their interests to introduce you to other sources of capital, so then you have this kind of network effect in action ... One investor leads to another, and then another." 

Asked what it was like to have some of the biggest names in the world backing his vision, he said: "Well, none of these people is with us on a day-to-day basis, they're obviously incredibly busy people. 

"On the whole, other than the publicity you receive from having them on board, I think their role is to be incredibly helpful at the right moment: by offering a very specific thing you need, or setting up an introduction." 

Beacon, which currently has around 50 employees based in London, is aiming to double its headcount by the end of the year with the funds raised. 

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