Zvi Scheiber’s Freightos Born Out Of Frustration With Archaic Freight Business
A Series of Forbes Insights Profiles of Thought Leaders Changing the Business Landscape: Zvi Schreiber, Founder and CEO, Freightos.
Freightos is a fast-growing, Israeli-headquartered SaaS software company designed to simplify the complicated and archaic shipping business. Founded by software engineer and serial entrepreneur Zvi Schreiber in 2012, the firm works with 90 percent of the top freight forwarders and automated 60,000 price quotes in the last quarter.
Today, the company, not only helps freight with pricing but also is adding marketing and sales as a service with an online freight marketplace. “We are very much like an Expedia for freight,” says Schreiber. The company recently announced the beta launch of the Freightos International Freight Index™ (FIFI). FIFI aggregates live freight rates from hundreds of carriers, forwarders, and shippers, enabling data-informed decision-making, free of charge, for businesses of all sizes.
“I’m a serial entrepreneur. The way I got into the world of logistics was simply as a customer of that industry. In 2010 I took over as CEO of Lightech, which made electronic power supplies for lighting, We designed these products in Israel and manufactured in Shenzhen, China. I was shipping them by air and ocean to mostly the US and Europe. That’s when I discovered that the world of international shipping is incredibly outdated and old fashioned,” says Schreiber.
He would often wait two to four days just for a simple price quote from logistics providers and thought there’s got to be a better way. Then, in 2011 Lightech was sold to GE and Schreiber used the opportunity to create a new company that would develop software for logistics and bring the world of international shipping online. Thus Freightos was born.
As simple as the idea sounds, the execution was far from it. Building a platform to standardize the data was the relatively easy part, given Schreiber’s software engineering background. But getting a deeply entrenched and secretive industry to divulge its rates was no small challenge.
Using a combination of data ingestion and manipulation, and good old fashioned human intervention and hard work calling and verifying ever-changing rates, Freightos built what Schreiber describes as by far the world’s biggest database of freight rates.
Ever the optimist, Schreiber knew the hard work would pay off when they “got the first really big multibillion dollar global freight forwarder to start automating price quotes by giving us their rates. Once we broke into a couple of the biggest most competitive companies it started to feel more we’re on to something.”
The Freightos Marketplace has grown 10X since launching but has yet to truly dent a very large industry. “It’s a trillion-dollar industry so we’ve got a long way to grow. But so far, it’s definitely exceeded our expectations.”
Schreiber was born in London but his parents moved to Israel when he was seven and then back to England when he was 15. Born into a family focused on commerce, Schreiber was more interested in mathematics and computer sciences at the time. He went to Cambridge, earned his first degree in mathematics, a masters in physics and then his Ph.D. in computer science. A life of academia seemed Zvi’s most likely path, but apparently entrepreneurship was in his blood.
“My grandfather was quite an entrepreneur. He was a refugee and an orphan in the second World War and came to London literally without a penny or a living relative and built up a very large furniture business. My father is also an entrepreneur, so there’s clearly entrepreneurship in the family and I can see that now. And clearly, I didn’t realize it at the time. It’s not like I grew up saying “I want to be an entrepreneur.”
“I’m quite a techy actually. But eventually I discovered that I can be both. I can be a techy and an entrepreneur and that suited me very well.”
He earned his PhD while working as a software engineer then moved back to Israel. He was still on the fence about choosing between business or academics. “I was lucky in a way moving back to Israel which actually has a very good infrastructure for entrepreneurs.”
Looking to the future, Schreiber says of Freightos, “our goal is to be the Expedia of international freight and we’re in a good position to do that. We still have 99.9 percent of the industry offline. In the end, the goal is not only just to make freight more efficient but to benefit the consumer.”