Flavio Alario spent 12 years at DHL before launching a specialty logistics company for fresh food delivery in Germany. That company, fliit, which he co-founded with fellow DHL veteran Nils Hempel in 2016, has secured €10 million in Series A funding. Maersk Growth, shipping company Maersk’s venture arm, and Maschmeyer Group’s growth capital investment firm Alstin II backed the round. Prior investor Berlin Technologie Holding, a tech venture firm, also participated.
Flitt is an online matchmaking platform for food producers, traders and transport providers. The company’s platform effectively acts as an Uber for commercial food transport connecting business clients who need deliveries to independent drivers with refrigerated and other food-friendly vehicles. It is designed to ensure that food shipments of any size are delivered fresh.
Alario and Hempel developed fliit recognizing that companies needing fresh food deliveries had limited options, particularly if they often deal with small or infrequent orders. Companies in the food business need to ship their goods in specialty and refrigerated trucks to preserve quality. Traditional freight-forwarding companies with the appropriate equipment do not cater to small and one-off requests, however, while small carriers are fragmented and cannot always accommodate clients’ with growing or irregular needs.
“Food logistics is still very much underserved but faces huge challenges due to customers wanting fresher products [and] transparency on where the food is coming from,” Alario told AgFunderNews.
Fliit’s solution is a platform that logs companies’ shipping requests, then matches those requests with its network of 200 independent, mostly local, drivers. The app then maps drivers’ delivery routes, tracks the shipment for clients, and processes confirmation, payment, and receipts.
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Any driver with a chilled caddy to 40-ton-truck can request to be registered on the platform. And customers can log requests starting as small as one box, pallet or roll cage.
“We are connecting food producers directly to retailers by providing an independent logistics platform specialized on food logistics,” Alario said. “By doing so, we help cut out the many intermediaries in the food ecosystem so that our customers can benefit from fresher products, can pick their favorite producers and save on costs.”
He adds that fliit also enables independent and small truck operators to increase utilization of their trucks and “manage their operations smoothly.”
Filling a market gap
Alario said he got quick validation that he and Hempel were addressing a market need.
“After leaving DHL, one of my first pitches was with the CEO and founder of Marley Spoon,” Alario recalled, referring to the Berlin-based meal kit company.“Five minutes into the meeting he said, “I get it, that’s what I need. Please send me a contract today.”
Alario wrote his first contract for fliit in a Starbucks. He also delivered some of the early orders himself.
Today, the company processes deliveries totaling 20,000 pallets per month across Germany. In addition to Marley Spoon, its client roster includes another Berlin-based meal kit company, Hello Fresh, produce supplier MSG Frucht, and restaurant chain L’Osteria.
Alario admits that building a network of local carriers is the most difficult part of the business. Nevertheless, investors in fliit’s funding round commented that they were drawn to the efficiency and efficacy of the company’s technological solution to a specialized market need.
“The revolutionary approach of fliit that combines complex technology with existing resources convinced us. It enables to deliver fresh produce quicker and to ensure the maintenance of the cool chain,” said Carsten Maschmeyer from Alstin II.
Jeppe Høier, partner at Maersk Growth, told AgFunderNews that fliit was the only startup in Europe servicing fresh food delivery as a specialized vertical in road freight forwarding.
Fliit recently appointed a new COO, Jan Hoberg, to support its expansion. Funding from its Series A round will be used to develop its digital platform and support international expansion.