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Maersk backs SME trade platform

Maersk’s corporate venture arm, Maersk Growth, is backing IncoDocs, an Australian start-up offering a platform to digitalise SME trades. Maersk Growth has invested in 10 start-ups since early last year, all focused around smart logistics

Backed by Maersk Growth, the IncoDocs platform offers a library of trade document templates with smart auto-fill, copy and compliance check features aimed at resolving pain points in SME trades

AP Moller-Maersk’s corporate venture arm has participated in a seed funding round raising A$1.2m ($0.85m) for a start-up platform seeking to cut red tape in trillions in dollars of trades involving small to medium enterprises.

Maersk Growth, the Danish shipping conglomerate’s unit, has joined two Australia-based venture capital funds, Transition Level Investments and Blackbird Ventures, to back IncoDocs, a start-up offering a platform to digitalise SME trades.

IncoDocs chief executive officer Brandon Boor told Lloyd’s List the platform was initially developed to address the pain he and co-founder Ben Thompson face in dealing with the vast volume of paperwork while running their own trading company.

An international trade transaction on average involves 27 to 30 different parties, 40 documents and 200 data elements, according to statistics from the World Bank.

The IncoDocs platform offers a library of trade document templates with smart auto-fill, copy and compliance check features aimed at resolving this pain-point. Mr Boor said the broader goal is to “democratise world trade” for SMEs by providing “an affordable, mobile-friendly tool” that help simplify trade processes. 

IncoDocs plans to draw on the seed funding to double up on engineering and products to serve the SME businesses on board its platform.

The start-up launched the third version of its platform last February and saw its user base expand to more than 4,000 companies across 120 countries, including in the emerging economies of Africa and South-east Asia. Since the February launch, some $189m worth in trades have been transacted via the platform.

Maersk Growth first approached IncoDocs in February and came on board as an investor in August. Operating partner Betty Yan Liu said: “We liked the IncoDocs solution for its simplicity and virality and we are convinced that the IncoDocs team has the skills and persistence to solve this significant pain point for SMEs.

Ms Liu explained that Maersk Growth is eyeing growth potential in the SME trade.

“The World Economic Forum said in 2015 that eliminating barriers within the international supply chain means global trade could increase by nearly 15% — clearly, this is a development we have interest in supporting,” she said.

The World Trade Organisation estimated that SMEs accounted for $2.6trn of merchandise exports last year.

Maersk Growth has invested in 10 start-ups since early last year, pumping in investments in millions of US dollars. It focuses on three key investment areas — smart logistics, fighting food waste and the future of the trade domain — that support the larger Danish group’s vision of evolving into an integrator of container logistics.

The corporate venture unit has incubated multiple build-initiatives for Maersk, including TradeLens —  a blockchain-based digital platform for global trade jointly developed with IBM.

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