Kyoto’s Ship&co raises $920K to help more e-retailers easily ship and export goods

Bertrand Thomas, CEO of Ship&co
Image credit: Ship&co

See the original story in Japanese.

Kyoto-based Bertland, offering a SaaS (Software as a Service) based shipping and invoice issuing platform named Ship&co, announced ealier this month that it had fundraised 100 million yen (about $920,000) from Spiral Ventures in its pre-series A round. The money will be spent for recruitment of human resources and additional development of the system.

BERTLAND was founded in November of 2008 by French entrepreneur Bertrand Thomas whose base for his activity is in Kyoto.

Thomas came to Japan in 2003 to study at Kyoto University, and started writing a blog around 2005. His blog, dealing with Japanese culture, gradually became popular as to acquire 800-1,000 daily visitors. One day, Thomas wrote a post about Bento (Japanese lunch box). The post was received favorably by French readers and his friends, but it was pointed out that there is no means to purchase beautiful Bento boxes for people living abroad and that they have to depend on mail orders like eBay.

Thomas sensed a business opportunity in this comment, and three weeks later, he launched an online marketplace dealing in Bento boxes named Bento&co using Shopify, with support from his wife and friends. Subsequently, he opened a real shop Bento&co Kyoto in the Shinkyogoku area of Kyoto in 2012, and also started to exhibit products at various overseas events. The online shop has grown bigger as to receive orders from more than 100 countries.

One of the big problems that most e-commerce operators faced when their businesses have grown is the remarkable increase of product dispatch work. Especially for e-commerce operators who have to handle a lot of orders from overseas, it is common to reduce shipping fees by choosing suitable delivery companies according to transport destination. However, since each transportation operator has a unique format as to the invoice to be attached to a package, it is complicated to issue an invoice in handwriting or to properly use multiple invoice printing software provided by transportation operators. Additionally, customs invoices are needed for shipping overseas.

Ship&co (click to enlarge)
Image credit: Ship&co

Thomas also considered a way to simplify the complicated work, and then he himself constructed a system, as Ship&co. The delivery companies that Ship&co cooperate with through API (Application Programming Interface) include Japan Post (international post / Yu-pack), FedEx, DHL, UPS, Sagawa and Yamato Transport (currently only its invoice-issuing system ‘C2’ is supported but ‘B2’ will also be supported from next month). It also covers e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, eBay, Base, PrestaShop, Magento, Amazon Marketplace, Rakuten, Next Engine, Stripe and WooCommerce, and plans to support Yahoo Shopping of Japan from next month.

Japanese delivery companies had been providing discount services to their customers in exchange for large-lot delivery orders. However, due to labor shortage in the delivery industry and the resulting rise in price therein, overseas shipping fee eventually becomes comparatively expensive as dependence on a certain transportation operator was born even for discount services.

Looking at global trends in this field, Shippo which raised $20 million in series B round last October, ShipStation which was purchased by (NYSE:STAMP) or ShippingEasy have gained power in the U.S. and Temando which was purchased by Neopost (EPA:NEO) appear to be in ascendancy in Australia, but Europe and Asia including Japan are still blue ocean markets.

Ship&co plans to cover La Poste of France in addition to Singapore Post and Australia Post, and will launch API enabling third-party developers to incorporate Ship&co into their own services around this summer. Looking to start overseas expansion, the firm is aiming for series A round fundraising in early 2019.

Ship&co is the first service listed on Shopify’s app store as a Japanese startup and is also recognized as the first FedEx Compatible Provider in the Asia-Pacific region. The firm aims to acquire approval of UPS Ready Provider as well in the future. The service will be showcased at E-commerce Fair 2018 Tokyo which will be held in Tokyo Big Sight, February 13th through 14th.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy