Uber: Greenbriar Invests $500mn in International Logistics
Launched in 2017, Uber Freight, the logistics arm of Uber Technologies, is designed to mimic the popular ride-hailing app of the same creators, to provide both users and drives in the logistics industry to arrange transportation of goods and services as smoothly as possible. It’s a new level of accessibility for a sometimes convoluted supply chain system, and it’s no harder than booking a taxi via the application on any smart device or computer.
Unfortunately, though, the applications creator, Uber, struggled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and was forced first to downsize its firm, then remove its employees, before eventually making the strategic business move of selling a portion of its shares in the Freight industry.
It’s a revolutionary concept for self-employed freight hauliers, and it could well be the future go-to application for supply chain and logistics globally, in the coming years. As such, Uber Freight gained a US$500mn investment from New York-based Greenbriar Equity Group, on October 2nd, 2020. After committing to the Series A funding via equity investment, the firm has announced a valuation of US$3.3bn for Uber Freight, with the “new influx of capital included.”
“We are tremendously proud of what we have accomplished in a few short years. We have led the industry with technology, transforming dated and analogue processes to ensure that both shippers and carriers are equipped to succeed in a rapidly changing industry,” said Lior Ron, Head of Uber Freight. “We are thrilled to be moving into the next chapter with Greenbriar by our side as a partner with deep expertise and a shared passion for simplifying logistics. We will continue to leverage Uber’s leading marketplace technology, global reach, and cross-platform capabilities to accelerate our growth and continue to lead the industry forward.”
The existing board of directors will move from Uber Freight to Greenbriar, and Uber Technologies will retain the majority shareholder position within the business.
In a statement on Friday, Michael Weiss of Greenbriar Equity Group’s announced that the trucking brokerage division and Greenbriar “make for an ideal partnership to accelerate Uber Freight’s already significant pace of growth. We see the increasing rate of digital penetration in logistics as one of the key trends reshaping industrial and consumer supply chains.”
In an interview with LM, the CEO of Cambridge Capital, an investor in niche supply chain leaders, Benjamin Gordon, stated that “the Uber-Freight deal reflects the maturation of logistics technology.”
“Greenbriar has a 21-year history of investing in large, profitable companies in transportation, typically via buyouts,” he said. “A year ago, it would have been unthinkable for a multi-billion-dollar private equity firm to commit US$500mn to an unprofitable technology startup. Today, the lines between venture capital and private equity have blurred. Large buyout firms like Greenbriar are the seeking high growth that can only come from technology-based companies. Uber Freight can deploy this capital to accelerate their growth and continue in its quest to transform truck brokerage.”
DHL Claim Multi-Sector Collaboration Key to Fighting COVID
Since January, global logistics leader DHL has distributed more than 200 million doses of the COVID vaccine to 120+ countries around the globe. While the US and UK recently rolled out immunisation plans to most citizens, countries with less developed infrastructure still desperately need more doses. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which currently has one of the highest per-capita immunisation rates, the government set up storage facilities to cover domestic and international demand. But storage, as we’ve learned, is little help if you can’t transport the goods.
This is where logistics leaders such as DHL make their impact. The company built over 50 new partnerships, bilateral and multilateral, to collaborate with pharmaceutical and private sector firms. With more than 350 DHL centres pressed into service, the group operated 9,000+ flights to ship the vaccine where it needed to go.
With new pandemic knowledge, DHL just released its “Revisiting Pandemic Resilience” white paper, which examined the role of logistics and supply chain companies in handling COVID-19. As Thomas Ellman, Head of Clinical Trials Logistics at DHL, said: “The past one year has highlighted the importance of logistics and supply chain management to manage the pandemic, ensure business continuity and protect public health. It has also shown us that together we are stronger”.
Multisector partnerships, DHL said, enabled rapid, effective vaccine distribution. While international scientists developed a vaccine in record time—five times faster than any other vaccine in history—manufacturers ramped up production and logistics teams rolled out distribution three times faster than expected. When commercial routes faced backups, logistics operators worked with military officers to transport vaccines via helicopters and boats.
In the UAE, the public-private HOPE Consortium distributed billions of COVID-19 doses to its civilians as well as other countries in need by partnering with commercial organisations such as DHL. For the first time, apropo for an unprecedented pandemic, logistics companies made strong connections with public health and government.
“While the race against the virus continues, leveraging the power of such collaborations and data analytics will be key”, said Katja Busch, Chief Commercial Officer DHL and Head of DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation. “We need to remain prepared for high patient and vaccine volumes, maintain logistics infrastructure and capacity, while planning for seasonal fluctuations by providing a stable and well-equipped platform for the years to come”.
How Do We Sustain Immunisation?
By the end of 2021, experts estimate that we need approximately 10 billion doses of vaccines—many of which will be shipped to areas of the world, such as India, South Africa, and Brazil, that lack significant infrastructure. This is perhaps the greatest divide between countries that have rolled out successful immunisation programmes and those that have not. As Busch noted, “the UAE’s significant investments in creating robust air, sea, and land infrastructure facilitated logistics and vaccine distribution, helping us keep supply chains resilient”.
Neither is the novel coronavirus a one-time affair. If predictions hold, COVID will be similar to seasonal colds or the flu: here to stay. When fall comes around each year, governments will need to vaccinate the world as quickly as possible to ensure long-term immunisation against the virus. This time, logistics companies must be better prepared.
Yet global immunisation, year after year, is no small order. To keep reinfection rates low and slow the spread of COVID, governments will likely need 7-9 billion annual doses of the vaccine to meet that mark. And if DHL’s white paper is any judge of success, multi-sector supply chain partnerships will set the gold standard.