Online marketplaces have played a central role in the modern economy as seen by the rise of multi-billion dollar companies such as AirBnb, Amazon, DeliveryHero, Ebay or Uber. Nowadays, it seems like there is a marketplace to fulfil almost every need. Whilst this may be the case for consumers, the reality is that much of the innovation we’ve seen on the B2C side of things has yet to move into the world of B2B. Many industries suffer from low transparency and complex supply chains and are dependent on inefficient intermediaries to facilitate transactions. We believe that the next generation of billion-dollar marketplaces will be increasingly focused around these industries and on serving businesses as opposed to end-consumers.
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Alibaba is leading the way in this respect by allowing businesses to purchase anything from agricultural supplies to industrial equipment and chemicals. However, we are now beginning to see the development of specialised/vertical marketplaces that are tackling different parts of Alibaba’s marketplace similar to what we saw almost a decade ago with the infamous unbundling of Craiglist.
In line with this, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at different B2B marketplaces across numerous industries including heavy industry, agriculture and logistics. We’ve mapped out some of the European players we’ve come across below and would love to hear from anyone that we’ve missed.
One of the areas we looked at is logistics and, in particular, freight, which can be divided into land, ocean or air freight. Everoad, Instafreight and OnTruck*, for instance, connect companies that need to ship goods over land with truck drivers. Freighthub and Zencargo offer a similar service for companies looking to ship goods via ocean transport and also act as a freight forwarder. cargo.one, by contrast, connects freight forwarders looking to book air cargo online.
When it comes to ocean freight, there are several platforms which now cater to the shipping industry. This includes BunkerEx, which connects ships with fuel suppliers, Xeneta* which provides a rate benchmarking and market intelligence platform for ocean and air freight and Container xChange*, a marketplace for shipping containers, amongst others.
Heavy industry and manufacturing have historically been dependent on inefficient processes (calling, faxing and emailing) and intransparent intermediaries to organize communication and order flow. Platforms are now digitising the process of sourcing both commodities, be it metals, plastics or chemicals as well as custom-made parts. Metalshub* enables users to effectively source and compare prices from multiple metal providers. Molport and Pinpools offer a corresponding service for the procurement of chemicals.
A similar trend is happening with regards to the production and sale of customised parts. Kreatize, Laserhub* and PartFactory help users order custom-made parts produced either through laser cutting or additive manufacturing. testxchange operates in a slightly different field, connecting manufacturers with testing labs to ensure the quality of the products they have produced.
Similar dynamics are occurring in the agricultural supply chain, which tends to be highly fragmented (particularly in Europe) and far from being digitised. In some cases, the rise of these platforms is being spurred by regulation aimed at ensuring the quality of products and transparency around their provenance. Aliro, Commoditrader and Hectare Farms are some of the first platforms that facilitate the trading of grains. Likewise, Breedr and Farmia enable the trading of livestock as do PeskyFish and Procsea for the seafood industry.
Both the agricultural and industrial supply chains are reliant on various machines. We’ve seen several marketplaces develop for the sale of new or old machines be it for farming, production lines or transportation. eFarm, Klarx and Trade Machines are examples of companies operating in this space.
These are just a few of the ‘old-school’ industries where we see huge potential for B2B marketplaces. What’s more, these platforms have the opportunity to go beyond being pure transactional marketplaces by offering additional products and services such as trade financing or insurance, amongst other things.
We look forward to seeing more companies move into this space and help digitise some of the world’s most inefficient industries. If you are working on anything in this space, please feel free to reach out :)