Early investor Tesla is leading a $ 70 million investment in Airspace

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The time-critical logistics startup Airspace, which originally entered the market for emergency supplies, including organ transplants and rescue drugs, has nearly doubled funding for a new round of venture capital led by DBL Partners, an investment firm. it was the first investor in Tesla. The $ 70 million funding round, which also included new investors Telstra Ventures and HarbourVest, as well as existing investors Scale Ventures, Defy Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures and Prologis Ventures, brings Airspace’s total funding to $ 138 million.

Investment is an indicator of the rapid growth of logistics startups during the pandemic years, as global supply chain challenges lead to new opportunities for disruptive business models. Thanks to DBL Partners, which focuses on “double-profit” investments, it also increases the level of sustainability in the business models of logistics companies and throughout the global supply chain.

Airspace noted in a release that many of its largest customers are increasingly focusing on carbon neutrality.

“The airspace is unique in its ability to provide full transparency of carbon emissions from time-critical deliveries, allowing customers to optimize routes with minimal impact on the environment,” said Ira Ehrenprice, founder and managing partner of DBL, in a press release. . .

ErenPrice is on Tesla’s board of directors, and DBL has invested in several solar companies (including SolarCity, now part of Tesla), as well as SpaceX’s Ilona Maska and previous CNBC Disruptor 50 companies such as Apeel Sciences, which focuses on food waste .

Joel Hwang, director of HarbourVest, also got a seat on the Airspace board.

The airspace uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize worldwide delivery capabilities, and provides real-time delivery data – up to 16,000 “touchpoints”.

The company, which was founded in 2016 and has offices in Carlsbad, California, Dallas, Stockholm and Amsterdam, reported growth of 110% last year and said it is keeping pace with that growth this year.

“As supply chain disruptions continue to affect countries around the world, shipping and logistics have never been so important in history to ensure that these complex and sensitive deliveries reach their destination on time,” said Airspace co-founder and CEO Nick Bulcao. said in a release.

More coverage of CNBC Disruptor 50 2022

Airspace, ranked 39th in CNBC Disruptor 50, is one of ten companies in the logistics sector included in the annual list, most in any sector in 2022, as the global supply chain crisis has raised the profile of technology approaches to global shipping problems and growth have led to increased attention from investors.

Several leading logistics startups featured on CNBC Disruptor 50 have made sustainability issues a key business share in what is often an inefficient and carbon-intensive transportation sector.

Between 15% and 40% of carbon emissions from trucks can be eliminated through more efficient transportation, according to Flock Freight, which was the first transport company to receive B Corp. status, requiring companies to manage business models designed to balance goals and objectives. profit. Flock Freight has focused on removing “empty space” in trucking, with many trucks only filling 60-70% when they hit the roads, which is inefficient both logistically and unnecessarily in terms of climate impact.

Airspace noted that many commercial aircraft take off with low-capacity capacity in cargo compartments, which is one of the data points it can track and use in finding alternative transportation options for customers.

Flexport, Disruptor № 1 this year, recently received venture capital of $ 900 million, and its annual revenue grew by billions during the supply chain crisis – this year it has profits of more than $ 5 billion.

“Historically, if you needed supplies in the regular cadence, it was good enough to travel across the ocean, road or rail, but with all these glitches, people who used to travel across the ocean have switched significantly to air travel,” Airspace said. . chief operating officer Ben Kozi in a recent interview.

Suppliers and shippers have changed their mentality regarding the hope of a single mode of transport.

“The global supply chain has just overcome the pandemic and labor shortages and growing consumer demand for food,” Kozi said. “All this has taken away the relative confidence in logistics, deprived it, and suppliers are trying to find new means of transport,” he added.

Funding will be used to increase Airspace’s focus on Europe and Asia, as well as on customers in new sectors where deliveries are important on time, including semiconductors, cars and clean technology. Europe accounts for more than 10% of revenue compared to 1.5% in 2020, according to Airspace, and the company now operates in 134 countries.

“Our goal is to be able to send the largest number of packages to any destination, regardless of size,” Bulcao said in a release.

To date, Airspace has completed more than a million shipments.

The global automotive industry has suffered from numerous chip shortages over the past two years, requiring waves of temporary cessation of production at major automakers. Earlier this month, Ford said the shortage of chips that plagues the industry persists, and the automaker is forced to prioritize ship supplies for the most sought-after models.

Although its roots are in the medical market, Kozi told CNBC that as Airspace grows it allows more customers to determine what is “critical” to their business. The inherent need to quickly move organs for transplantation is a business model that can now be applied to a carmaker’s plant that doesn’t work because of parts that haven’t arrived. “The deadline that needs to be delivered is critical,” Kozi said.

Recently, Airspace has also found a market in a wide variety of items such as high-end boxes, high-end aprons and hot tubs.

“Our model allows us to move fast in less than 24 hours once a customer has made a decision,” Kozi said.

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Early investor Tesla is leading a $ 70 million investment in Airspace

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