While the use of these online tools has been relatively recent, Raworth is hardly without competition. A Los Angeles- and Philadelphia-based tech startup, called INLT, also made its debut in the logistics industry this year, earning final U.S. government approval as recently as April 12 to commercially launch its cloud-based web application, which it has been testing with a handful of forwarders and shippers for the last few months.
Freight forwarders can connect their agents globally via INLT’s cloud-based application, reducing the need for calls, emails, and faxes in a heavily paper-driven industry. “We watched as the market began to change while U.S. Customs and trade compliance was ignored,” said Chris Reynolds, INLT co-founder and CEO. “Our role is to be the glue in the supply chain, from a communication and technology perspective, as well as a compliance one.”
After raising US$1 million in funding from strategic, angel and other private investors last year to expand its engineering and trade compliance teams, INLT is seeking more clients. “We have a mix of 25 to 30 importers and then another 15 freight forwarders, each of which bring a couple dozen importers themselves,” Reynolds said. “About half of the entries arrive by airfreight.”
One of the first and most important benefits INLT offers is cost savings. “That’s what gets us in the door,” Reynolds said. “We’re about half the cost of what forwarders are paying for brokers. Brokers have always historically discounted their entry fees to logistics partners — $50 to $60. We’re doing it for $30 an entry.”
INLT’s founding team is comprised of a trade attorney, a customs broker, a software engineer and a veteran of the importing business. “We raised seed capital over the summer,” Reynolds said. “And with that money hired a small team of engineers, began building the API product and started going through the process of getting certified through U.S. Customs, beginning with DHS. It took five to six months. We were the first ones doing it with all-Amazon Web Services, which was kind of new to Customs.”
Part of the INLT module was also based on input from forwarders. “We had a few forwarders ask us ‘What if I want to amend an entry or we’ve had a conflict with an importer who has indicated they’re not going to pay their duty, or not going to pay our bill? How do we communicate that to you or pay our bill?” Reynolds said. “We’ve made that interface a two-way street. They can now go into the billing module and then remove an entry from the statement.”