Edinburgh-based asset management firm Baillie Gifford has a history of backing winners in the tech scene, from Amazon and Tesla to Spotify and Adyen.
The firm’s got an increasing focus on European tech and has just made its latest investment into the continent, backing Berlin-based freight forwarder Sennder in a $80m Series D round alongside existing investors Accel, Lakestar, HV Ventures, Scania and Project A.
The new funding brings Sennder’s investment raised so far to $350m. The company raised $160m in the first close of its Series D round in January this year, giving the company unicorn status.
Changing the logistics sector
Sennder appealed to Baillie Gifford, investor Stephen Paice says, because of its promising technology and software system, good customer relations and ability to scale quickly.
Sennder connects small to mid-sized trucking companies with shippers, aiming to reduce the number of return journeys trucks do.
It’s among a cohort of freight businesses in Europe, such as Zencargo in London and FreightHub in Berlin, that are aiming to digitalise the antiquated logistics market — currently worth $427bn in Europe alone.
German companies are particularly strong in freight forwarding, holding the largest market share. Within that, Sennder’s the best-financed of the European companies.
“It’s a network effect. As Sennder gets bigger by taking market share and saving money for those involved, it can reinvest those profits back into technology and back into customer service, so it’s a positive feedback loop,” says Paice. Sennder’s in a strong position to consolidate the fragmented industry.”
The company has grown fast — largely through acquisitions. Last year, the company merged with French competitor Everoad and acquired Uber Freight’s European business. Earlier this month, the company also acquired Dutch logistics player Cars&Cargo.
Baillie Gifford in Europe
For Paice, Sennder’s ability to expand fast is a sign of a wider, exciting trend in European tech.
“In the past, Europe has struggled a bit and the reason is the lack of financing and support, as well as a lack of understanding from companies that in many of these areas you need to grow quickly and scale up before you grow profitable. Europe has struggled on that until maybe the last three to four years.”
This understanding is matched by improvements in the European funding scene, Paice says, as well as a shift in corporate culture.
“We’re seeing a level of ambition that we haven’t seen in a very long period of time,” he says, with publicly-listed tech companies showing the rest of the ecosystem that Europe can create world class companies. “That shift in corporate culture and ambition is the most notable shift that’s happening.”
Although most of Baillie Gifford’s tech investment is focused on North America and Asia, the firm has started to put more and more money into Europe through its European Growth Trust.
The trust backs between 30 and 60 companies, with no company allowed to be greater than 10% of the overall portfolio.
Its biggest European holdings at present are in Prosus, IMCD, Ryanair and Adyen. It's also backed European companies like Zalando and Spotify and, more recently, food delivery company HelloFresh and Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt.