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Building a platform without ballast

Two experienced freight forwarders sold their business to a young, fast-growing company. They turned out to be able to build a platform that the experienced 'brokers' were unable to. Milestone Group owners Juri Falandt and Co van Es stepped over their own shadows and chose the future of their company. They sold their shares to Shypple, a digital forwarding company led by the energetic founder Jarell Habets. TLN talked to the three entrepreneurs about the how and why.

Fltr: Jarell Habets, Co van Es, Juri Falandt

Why did you choose Shypple?
Falandt: "At Milestone we worked for two years on a digital booking platform. We just couldn't get it done. We bought the software and put people on it, but we kept running into problems. Then we met Jarell. He has a platform that does work."

Van Es adds: "Milestone Fresh is a worldwide forwarder of vegetables, fruit, plants and flowers. In this market it is very important to share information quickly with your clients. Everyone is waiting for the products. For days, two employees were busy keeping track of where all the containers were. Shypple's platform makes it possible to do that in a smarter way."

What is the advantage of that platform?
Habets: "We are a forwarding agent and we have a digital platform. The platform ensures central communication; there is only one truth. Everyone can see what is being said. It also contains a lot of data: a container with a number, with purchase orders, with tracking underneath. You no longer have to ask where that container is. Everyone can see it. You no longer have an endless stream of e-mails, the communication is much better structured, centralised and completely transparent. It provides a big improvement in efficiency for the forwarder, but also a lot of added value for the supplier and the end customer."

What is so complex about building this platform?
Habets: "You build a platform for an intercontinental chain for at least four different parties, namely the shipper, the agent in the country of origin, the agent in the country of destination and the customer. They all have a different role in the process. They are in different countries and all have their own way of working. You have to give them all a motive to use that platform. The trick is to keep the platform universal, usable for more customers and at the same time user friendly."

What do you expect from the cooperation?
Van Es: "We are convinced that this will be a success. This cooperation makes our organisation future-proof. We are ahead of the rest. That gives our company an enormous boost. And of course our customers benefit from the platform."

What is your joint focus for the future?
In unison: "Continuing to grow." Habets explains: "For more clout, you need scale. I think the era of small forwarders and a fragmented market is rapidly coming to an end. A huge amount of companies will not be able to keep up with the digital transition. It requires such large investments. We developed the platform for ourselves as freight forwarders. Milestone has decided to join forces with us. Co and Juri sold their shares to Shypple and reinvested the millions earned in the company. Other entrepreneurs could do the same. We are open to taking over more companies."

One question remains for Co and Juri: why did you fail to develop a platform like this yourselves?
Falandt: "It is simply very difficult. Shypple has a whole battery of developers in house. We are freight forwarders, we mainly have forwarders."

Habets: "I see it like this. You have an aircraft and you need to turn it into a rocket. Instead of trying to convert the plane, it would be better to throw everything away and start all over again. Milestone has a lot of knowledge. That has hindered them. I don't have that hindered knowledge, I've been naïve. If I had known what Co and Juri know, I probably wouldn't have even started."

Source: TLN

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