The Story Behind Our Investment In FretLink (And Their €25M Last Round)
There’s nothing sexier than a passionate founder sharing his vision of the world. I’m lucky enough to work at daphni, where those specimens are legions, but I’m still surprised by the awesomeness of founders our investors might pick. FretLink’s team doesn’t change this perception: it’s again another gem… and what a gem!
Did you know that when you drive the highway on your way to your birth city or a peaceful weekend, there is a one in four chance that the truck you’re overtaking is empty. That’s a net loss for carriers, but, above all, a huge ecological waste.
Today, Fretlink is on track to tackle this issue, by enabling hauliers to never send an empty truck on the road again, thanks to its platform and its powerful algorithms. The company managed to scale from startup to scale up successfully and is now raising €25M in which we are super proud to contribute alongside new investors such as Edenred Capital Partners, Weaving Invest, Fabrice Grinda, and the historical investors, Elaia Partners, Breega Capital, The Family, SGH Capital, and Tekton Ventures.
Here is the backstory of our very special love story with FretLink I’ve been lucky enough to dive into.
Paul Guillemin started his first company when he was just 19 years old, before creating a digital agency. One day, a client asked Paul if his agency would be able to create what is called a “Transport Management System” (TMS) for trucks. By digging into the topic, Paul and his team noticed that this industry hadn’t started its digitization yet. They also discovered that the road freight market was suffering from inefficient processes, complex regulations, and unbelievable absurdities… it was ready for disruption!
But the European market is very fragmented, which makes it quite difficult to penetrate for a newcomer. To give you an idea, the biggest player, DB Schenker (a division of the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn AG), only has a 2.1% market share, according to BCG. In Western Europe, more than 300,000 carriers (from multi-billion-euro companies to small self-operated operations) compete on the road freight industry. In Europe, the road transport market is a 300 billion euros business. So imagine the potential if we could make it much more efficient…
“The situation is paradoxical, as shippers are finding it increasingly difficult to find reliable partners, while most transport companies having the necessary loading capacity (96% are small and medium-sized enterprises with less than 50 employees) have difficulty getting access to the freight of the biggest carriers due to a lack of marketing and commercial resources” explained Paul Guillemin in a Medium post.
GETTING THE VISION
His vision is to offer a streamlined organization of road freight, through standardization, transparency, and access to transportation data, in order to bring carriers closer to shippers and help them collaborate along every step of the transportation chain.
The complexity of the task didn’t stop Paul Guillemin: together with his cousin Antoine Le Squeren and Didier Duval (aka “The Doctor” or “The Godfather”), a transportation expert with 30+ years experience, they created Fretlink in 2016. They were later joined by a fourth co-founder, Frédéric Menou, as CTO, coming from Capitaine Train (now Trainline).
For sure, it would have been way easier for them to create a marketplace and offer a simple connection service between shippers and carriers, rather than attacking the market through key accounts, with the freight commissioner status. “But this didn’t fit our desire to consider transportation in a global manner or ensure the reliability of our partners. Nor would it allow us to provide our customers with reliable information on their data and therefore offer them recommendations to optimize their performance” adds Paul.
ON THE WAY TO VC LAND
In order to start the business, Paul and his team raised 300 000 euros, from friends, family, and Business Angels. At the end of 2016, as Fretlink started a beta product, they raised an extra 450,000 euros, including money from The Family. The meeting between daphni and Fretlink happened around that time when the startup had only about 10 employees. Oussama Ammar from The Family introduced Paul and its team to Willy Braun and Pierre-Yves Meerschman (one of the actual board member of FretLink), who were quickly convinced about the potential of the startup. (Yes, FretLink was still a “startup” a few years ago)
This first official meeting happened in a warehouse in the suburbs of Paris, not a fancy office in the center of the city. Despite the location, they had managed to gather around them a group of high-level talents… Pierre-Yves Meerschman thought at first glance it was “the sign of a very committed team that truly believes in its mission to change the transportation industry”.
Thanks to their vision, they managed to gather a set of VC alongside daphni with Breega, Elaia, Tekton. The journey was just beginning!
In less than two years, the company grew from 15 to 80 employees, has turned itself from a tech-enabled transportation company to a real tech company dealing with huge transportation plans and bringing the features needed by the market for years…
The company has multiplied his turnover by ten since last year, works with more than 5 000 carriers all over Europe and counts over 400 returning customers, from small and medium-sized businesses to large European companies, including Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Ferrero, Mars… The fundraising which has just been announced is not only the sign of Fretlink being on the right path to scale through additional financial capabilities but also brings both credentials and industrial support of strong European partners deeply involved in the trucking market evolution for years.
No surprise, Paul and his team truly believe in their ability to become one of the next European unicorns. They have already 5000 carriers (and more than 200 000 trucks) and are expanding in 2019, opening offices in Germany, Belgium, and Poland — even though Fretlink is already operating in 22 countries. This €25M fundraising will help the company hire more than 100 talents to grow in those markets.
We feel incredibly lucky and proud to help the founders, Antoine Le Squeren and Paul Guillemin, their team and their clients, to bring Fretlink to the next level. They are already a rocket ship 🚀 ❤️