Mexico City — Alfonso de los Rios, CEO and co-founder of Nowports, was born with logistics in his blood, with his family having been dedicated for more than 25 years to traditional logistics operations in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey. Since he was a child, he has observed the process of helping companies in the region import and export their products. And now, at age 23, the logistics startup he founded in early 2019 with Maximiliano Casal, is now worth $1.1 billion, making it the country’s latest unicorn.
Latin America’s first digital freight forwarder has closed a $150 million Series C round and in doing so has become the first LogiTech unicorn in Latin America.
The financing round was led by SoftBank Latin America Fund, with the participation of Tiger Global, Foundation Capital, Monashees, Broadhaven Ventures, Mouro Capital, Tencent and Base10 Partners.
Also participating were angel investors Daniel Voguel of Bitso, Ricardo Amper of Incode, and Roger Laughlin of Kavak, as well as Alex Bouaziz of Deel.
Nowports is the eighth Mexican unicorn, following in the footprints of Kavak, Bitso, Clip, Konfío, Clara. Merama, Jokr and Jeeves, and is the 45th unicorn in the region.
Reaching this status “is a great personal satisfaction, it is a milestone we always wanted to reach. and we were very confident that we were going to get there because the market is very large and because of the opportunities in Latin America to digitize imports,” Alfonso de los Ríos told Bloomberg Línea.
Alfonso de los Ríos and Maximiliano Casal, who are software engineers, met at Stanford University, and launched the company with the aim of digitizing an industry that had been doing the same thing for a long time.
Logistics teams can spend more than 12 hours a week filling out manual reports, but Nowports’ platform allows them to minimize the time given over to that task, as well as to automate other processes and track cargo in real time.
“To move a container from China to Mexico, we had to send more than 80 emails and fill out more than 15 manual documents; their operating system was an Excel, and that is a pain for the logistics world,” De los Ríos says.
Amid financial uncertainty, the world’s largest private funds have bet on investing in the business model of Nowport that until now has raised $16 million in a Series A round in July 2021, and $60 million a Series B round in December of last year.
However, the company had gone through a major crisis in December 2020.
“We had a situation in which we almost ran out of capital due to an internal flow issue,” De los Ríos says from Monterrey.
“There is financial uncertainty, that’s true, but we believe that logistics is going to keep moving. Look, today we serve a little over 2,100 clients, and in our last round, which was a Series B, we served around 1,000″, he says.
Juan Franck, managing partner of SoftBank Latin America Funds stated: “We are excited to once again invest in Nowports, a company that is revolutionizing its industry.
Franck added that, “in addition to the growing focus on artificial intelligence, big data and IoT to improve the entire import and export chain, we believe that the investment will help Nowports consolidate its presence in the Brazilian market, and create new services and solutions, becoming a true reference in innovation in Latin America”.
De los Rios says that when the company negotiated this most recent financing round, “what we talked about with the investors was that logistics grows much more during financial crises, because companies have to diversify to optimize costs, and we thought we could be the player that really gives them all the possibilities and, now, for the next 24 months, we think we will be 100% in expansion mode”.
With this new injection of capital, Nowports will expand financing services in Latin America, enabling companies to increase their imports and exports with fintech credit and financing solutions.
Other objectives include developing a more robust platform to meet market needs, as well as expanding its team.
In addition, Nowports will expand its presence in the countries where it already operates, and will also open offices in more cities. The first planned openings will take place in Brazil, Mexico and Chile.
“We want to open in other emerging markets later this year because the need for transparent logistics financing is something you don’t see in that region,” De los Rios says.
In addition, Nowports will expand its team with more talent. All areas will grow, but there will be an emphasis on engineering for technology development.
Alfonso de los Rios, who at 23 years old is the youngest CEO of a unicorn in Latin America, also reaffirms his excitement for gaining the trust of large investment funds.
“This reinforces our commitment to transform the region’s supply chains with technology and agile access to financing for companies that import or export goods. We will make Nowports one of the main drivers of all emerging economies in the world, not just in Latin America,” he says.
Maximiliano Casal, co-founder and COO of Nowports, says that they have already seen accelerated growth, “and this capital injection will allow us to continue with that pace to streamline the flow of our operations and reach more corners of the world”.
The 30-year-old also comes from a family dedicated to logistics in his native Uruguay, which made the perfect match with De los Rios to build a startup that is changing the way logistics is traditionally done.
Nowports’ growth has been so accelerated that it went from startup to scaleup. De los Rios claims that its net revenue has grown exponentially 12-fold in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the first quarter of 2021. “We have generated profits on every transaction we do, so we are not operating at a loss, and the newly invested will help continue the growth,” he says.
In the first quarter of 2022, Nowports launched operations in Panama City and Concepción (Chile) and Medellín (Colombia), resulting in 10 active offices in seven countries. At the same time, the Mexican company grew to more than 500 ‘nowporters’ (employees).
Not only that, De los Rios told Bloomberg Linea, but the company is also expanding into Spain.
Nowports also has operational offices in Hong Kong, Mumbai, as well as in Madrid.
“We want to go for much more, we want to go public, and it’s something we have in mind for the next few years,” he says.