The Singapore-based Nium Pte became a rare fintech unicorn in the city-state after raising more than $200 million in a funding round led by California-based Riverwood Capital LLC. The payments startup serving businesses announced that its value exceeded $1 billion after a Series D round. In addition to Riverwood Capital LLC, other backers included Temasek Holdings Pte, Visa Inc., Rocket Capital, Vertex Ventures, and Beacon Venture Capital. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte also joined the round. Prajit Nanu, Nium’s CEO and founder, said the company plans to use the funds to expand operations in the United States and Latin America before pursuing an initial public offering in the US in approximately 18 to 24 months. Nanu also added that Nium may even pursue a secondary listing in Singapore at a later date. Earlier this year, the startup bought London-based Ixaris and Wirecard Forex India Pvt. According to Nanu, it will remain on the lookout for additional acquisition opportunities in the UK, Indian, and Australian markets. Nium reaching unicorn status marks a true milestone in Singapore, an affluent island city with a population of about 5.7 million. Aiming to position itself as a fintech hub, Singapore is home to more than 1,000 fintech startups that mainly focus on providing payment, personal finance, investment, and business lending services. Founded in 2014, Nium now has a network of over 200 clients, including Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and Thailand’s Kasikornbank Pcl, among more than 200 clients. Similar to Stripe Inc., which became the most valuable US startup in March 2021, Nium offers software solutions that make it easier to accept online payments. It also allows its clients to send money and issue physical and virtual credit cards. Nium processes $8 billion in payments annually and issued over 30 million virtual cards so far.
As organized crime continues to be a massive problem in the retail sector, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), a US trade organization, called on online marketplaces to make a greater effort to prevent thieves from using them as their virtual storefront. Lisa LaBruno, RILA’s senior executive vice president of retail operations and innovation, said that online marketplaces are the primary selling point for shoplifted items and that Amazon, eBay, and Facebook aren’t doing enough to end this trend. “We can’t arrest and prosecute ourselves out of this problem. The retailers are carrying their weight. They’re doing their level best to address this problem. Law enforcement is doing its best to address this problem. The other key stakeholder in this is the online marketplaces,” LaBruno added. According to her, shoplifters “hide behind their computer screen name with essential anonymity,” which results in a “very low-risk, high-reward crime for them.” In response, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We don't allow people to sell stolen goods, we require sellers to adhere to local laws, and we make certain to respond to requests from law enforcement about stolen goods on our platform.” Similarly, an Amazon spokesperson insisted that “Amazon is always innovating to improve and protect our customer experience. We have selling policies that all sellers agree to before selling on Amazon, and we take action against those that violate them and threaten our customer experience. Policy violations can result in cancellation of listings, removal of selling privileges, withholding of funds, and legal action, depending on its severity.” In a pandemic-stricken world, more consumers are shopping online and new digital marketplaces are popping up every day. Many credit card issuers are offering special incentives to card members who choose to shop online instead of swiping their plastic in brick-and-mortar stores. This in itself is a challenge for the physical retailer market, and the worrying rise in stolen good trafficking has only served to exacerbate the issue.
About 30 container ships have been anchored outside the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles every day, waiting in line just to deliver their goods. This backlog is a consequence of a global supply-chain mess brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic that will ultimately lead to consumers seeing delivery delays for weeks. While retail giants like Amazon.com Inc and Walmart Inc. rush to rebuild their inventories to meet US consumers’ increasing demand, it’s the small importers and order fulfillment companies who have to bear the brunt of the messed-up supply chains and fight over limited cargo space on container ships coming in from Asia. According to information provided by cargo owners and brokers, small business owners who don’t want to deal with delayed shipments must pay up to three times the standard freight charges. In addition to rising freight costs and shipping delays, American businesses now also have to deal with a shortage of available labor and increased product costs. All of the factors above weigh particularly heavily on small companies, which rarely have the resources to absorb price changes or the leverage to negotiate lower rates or pass along the higher costs to their customers. According to recent data, the average shipment price for a container traveling from China to California is now $6,043. This is up 43% since the start of 2021 and 344% compared to the rates from the beginning of 2020. The price for sending a box from Asia to Europe is $13,073, up 130% from the start of this year. Still, small importers from the United States say they are also facing the challenge of finding available ships and are paying much more to get goods on them once they do. According to shipping executives, increased freight costs came from several different disruptions across supply chains that triggered delays at different points of distribution networks, as manufacturers and retailers rushed to meet the market’s demand. Freight prices started going up at the end of the summer of 2020 as homebound consumers began ordering an outstanding amount of goods like furniture, electronics, and exercise equipment. Things only got worse after the Suez Canal blockade in Marchand the congestion at China’s Yantian port and the ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Forto has raised $240 million in an investment round led by Softbank and its Vision Fund, the freight-tech logistics startup announced on Monday, June 21. The five-year-old Berlin company organizing trade shipments between Europe and China plans on expanding its geographical footprint to secure market leadership. “With this investment, we are able to further accelerate our growth path and roadmap,” Michael Wax, CEO and co-founder of Forto, said in a press release. The investment round was led by Softbank’s Vision Fund 2, along with Citi Ventures, G Squared, Northzone, Inven Capital, Unbound, and Cherry Ventures. Forto’s valuation now stands at $1.2 billion. “Logistics is the backbone of global commerce, and data analytics, machine learning, and process automation will reshape the global delivery of goods and services,” Karol Niewiadomski, senior investor for SoftBank Investment Advisers, stated. "Forto's centralized platform leverages these technologies to boost operational efficiency, lower handling costs, and increase transparency for their customers. We're pleased to partner with Michael and his team as they continue to scale the business internationally." With this financial boost, Forto can develop highly transparent and sustainable digitized logistics. Its current client base counts some 2,500 companies, mainly mid-sized businesses; the company helps ship up to 10,000 containers per year by air, sea, and rail. Forto’s biggest clients include Home 24, German supermarket chain Edeka, Glencore, and ThyssenKrupp. Despite the market getting ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the German startup tripled its profits last year and plans on expanding beyond Europe and China. Forto is not the only freight tech company Softbank has placed its bets on. The Japanese multinational conglomerate led the $1.7 billion investment round backing China’s Full Truck Alliance in November 2020, and the overall startup funding numbers around the world continue to break all records.