Maersk OceanPro to boost shipping industry innovations

Copenhagen based AP Moller Maersk is world's largest shipping company. Maersk group has offices in 130 countries, hiring 76000+ employees worldwide. Maersk group controls about 20% of global shipping capacity and clearly a formidable player in global logistics industry. Big corporations are often criticized for their red tape, too much process and management layers, not having a culture of innovation and flexibility to take risk and try something new. However I had an opportunity yesterday to take part in a press event showcasing how best of both worlds- expertise and insights of a 120 year old mega corporation with lots of experience, data and well established business, coupled with agility and speed of a startup to try new things and scale them fast- can be had.

Welcome to OceanPro by Maersk
Ocean Pro is an initiative by Maersk Group to work with capable startups to quickly solve industry problems. Maersk's Ocean Pro is made up of 4 month cycles called Cohorts within which a selected start up needs to solve a market problem and present their working solution. Qualifying solutions will them be further mentored and scaled to global level by Maersk. Ocean Pro initiative is headed by Maersk's Global Commercial Process head Sriram Narayanasami.

While Ocean Pro has completed two Cohorts (nearly 8 months) and next few Cohorts are being planned, we got to learn about outcome of Cohort 2 in yesterday's press meet.

Maersk Ocean Pro Cohort 2 start ups and their ideas:
Stratforge: There are 100s of invoicing softwares. But how to ensure customer pays once invoice is sent? Stratforge is solving this problem, by assessing which customers are highly reliable that they would promptly pay, which customers need lots of follow ups and so on. This can eventually lead to quicker, higher collection rates and provision to provide incentive to those customers who pay promptly on time.

Tripz: Tripz focuses on boosting operating efficiency of trucks by trying to eliminate/minimize empty truck movements. Essentially mining historic and real time data to come up with most optimal truck itineraries.

Linkstreet: Built by RapL, Linkstreet aims to simplify front end staff's training process and makes them more informed, more accurate and confident in their customer facing roles. By using game like, on the spot quick knowledge checks and training bits, Linkstreet helps reduce training time and cost for organizations. I saw a quick demo of this-was told RapL team can convert existing lengthy training materials into quiz like useful micro learning exercise, measuring front end staff's accuracy and confidence. RapL is founded by Aditya Ramamurthy and their site is www.getrapl.com

Shipmnts.com: helps digitizing various documents involved in shipping industry. Container shipping industry is document heavy- Bill of Lading, Shipment instructions, Arrival Notice, Customs clearance, Dangerous Cargo declarations, Invoices and so on. Keeping these documents in its traditional, manual form slows down the process, hinders in tracking and reduces efficiency of entire value chain. Shipmnts.com is working to bridge this gap which if implemented successfully across stakeholders can save time, money and boost efficiency. Shipmnts is founded by Karan Shah and you can find out more at shipmnts.com

Some FAQs:
1. Is Maersk taking a stake in the startups they are supporting?
At this moment the support provided can be best termed as a "Grant". Stake or other investment considerations come much later.

2. What kind of startups/ideas will be taken up under OceanPro?
Ideas that solve a real world business problem for global shipping major like Maersk. Maersk has evaluated over 600 startsups/ideas so far before selecting the 8-12 for first 3 cohorts. Ideas that Maersk's business heads see value and possibility to scale- are the ones which get selected, not just any cool idea.

3. Success Rate?
We are told Maersk Ocean Pro has a success rate of nearly 50%. Typically companies invest in a dozen startup, blindly hoping at least one of them will click and give them massive returns. However Maersk OceanPro does excessive vetting of prospective startups they work with and so far enjoying much higher success rate in being able to come out with a viable solution that can be scaled at Maersk's enterprise level and possibly even positioned in global markets for others to purchase.
4. Is Maersk affected by overcapacity, US-China trade wars and economic slowdown?
Sriram: I would not like to comment on US-China issue as this is talked about only at CEO level.  Overall we have been doing good. Our forecast has been revised upwards for Q4 so I would say it is positive.

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