Explorate - Digital freight forwarder

The Explorate story began in a dusty freight forwarding warehouse in Brisbane during November 2012, when Conor Hagan was tasked with showing Alex Ewart, a recent graduate of international business, the world of international logistics.

It started like any other day in logistics back then, by sending a fax.

A relationship formed over a mutual interest in supply chains and technology, and nearly four years and many faxes later these colleagues turned co-founders created Explorate.

“The idea was simple - to make booking freight just like booking an airline ticket,” Alex says.

Explorate is a digital freight forwarder that uses technology to give importers and exporters more transparency and control over their freight.

This startup had a clear mission from the start, which is to continually unlock value for shippers by challenging the logistics industry.

“We got to work in an early investor’s garage and built the foundations for a new model of freight forwarding. One built on transparency and trust,” Alex says.

“Even the name, Explorate (initially chosen because we wanted our customers to ‘explore rates’ but actually means ‘to explore’), had new meaning by bringing a new wave of digital explorers to our industry.

“The top 25 freight forwarders who control over 60% of the market were all founded prior to the internet. These companies are slow, technologically in the Stone Age and expensive. We have built industry-leading technology and hired some of the sharpest minds in logistics to give our customers, importers and exporters a smarter, faster and cheaper way of interfacing with their freight.”

The past year has delivered some big milestones for the Explorate team.

“Watching the business grow in the past 12 months has been an amazing experience. We now have over 20 staff members and are growing at a rate of knots, pardon the pun. It is incredibly exciting,” Alex says.

“We’ve been incredibly fortunate that our business has been thriving during COVID-19 with our revenue growing by 400%.

“In August, we privately chartered a Boeing 777 from Southeast Asia to the US, replacing the plane’s normal cargo - people - with boxes of face masks and disposable gowns. We were also tasked with importing an N-95 mask manufacturing machine for the Queensland Government during the early stages of the pandemic.”

But the company’s growth has not been without its challenges.

“The biggest challenge we have faced is the two to three years preceding our current success. It was a real struggle to get that ‘product/market fit’ piece right, but now that we are there it also seems like a distant memory,” he says.

Funding has been a huge kickstarter for Explorate.

“In the ideation stage of the business we raised a family and friends round to get started. We also were fortunate enough to get the Queensland Government’s Ignite Ideas Fund grant,” Alex says.

“Mid-2019 we were accepted into the Skalata Seed Investment Program, which sharpened our approach and accelerated our sales.

“We also recently closed a major seed round of funding, led by a private equity firm, Pressroom Partners, and venture firm, Online Brands Group, which gave us $1 million. This money will help us scale our business further as we look to expand into Southeast Asia and invest more into the R&D of our software and commercial offerings.”

Looking forward, the Explorate team says their product will constantly grow and mature.

“There will always be platform capabilities that can be expanded, market size to capture, a culture and team to scale and a global presence to create,” Alex says.

“Our seed round was raised to solidify our standings in the Australian market and the plan is to raise a Series A to turn the afterburners on from the middle of 2021 onwards. For us, that’s a major focus on fostering key partnerships, hiring the best people and creating a growth rate that we can be proud of.”