September 26, 2021

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Investors pour funding into logistics-focused communication system

Investor Insight Partners said it sees Sedna as being able to address enterprise collaboration without expecting companies to abandon existing email systems. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Workplace collaboration software provider Sedna Systems said Monday it has landed $34 million in funding to grow the reach of its system that is designed to wean distributed organizations off a reliance on email.

Although the software is applicable to a range of sectors where decentralized teams use multiple communications channels to coordinate, Sedna sees a sizable opportunity in the global logistics industry, founder and CEO Bill Dobie told JOC.com.

Founded in 2017, London-based Sedna initially gained traction in the bulk shipping sector, based on Dobie’s background in that sector. It has since attracted customers in a range of maritime and logistics verticals, including third-party logistics providers, ship services agencies, and commodity traders.

“The sectors that we find attractive are large, complex, and confusing,” Liu-Doyle said. “Logistics is a massive market, with $1.5 trillion spent in the US alone. It’s vast, with stakeholders that need to coordinate highly important transactions. But we’re by no means only logistics-focused investors. We’re enterprise-focused investors. We want to catch inflection points in the transformation of industries.”

Email ‘ill-suited’ for complex teams

Dobie built Sedna around the idea that email was ill-suited for multidimensional decision making in the maritime world.

“Email is a personal communication medium that allows one-to-one dialog. It has never been rethought for business purposes,” Dobie said. “In the world of logistics, relevant information needs to be accessible to several teams and employees. With critical information trapped in personal inboxes, there is a chronic lack of visibility, which makes it difficult to effectively collaborate within and across teams that are trying to move goods faster and unblock bottlenecks.”

Sedna is not meant to dislodge email hosts, such as Microsoft Outlook or Google’s Gmail, but rather to prioritize key information across multiple communication channels through a system of tagging. That helps identify which tasks a person or team needs to address in a more logical order than a person trying to manually check across its communication platforms would be able to do.

“That source of truth for the entire organization in a single digital workspace enables the right people at the right time to take action to fix our jammed-up supply chains,” Dobie said. “Almost all you need to get a shipment moved faster and safely is in that [email] stream, but it’s so brittle, unaware, and disconnected from your other systems, you’re forced into a universe of workarounds, chat [applications] among them.”

Previous investors Stride.VC, Chalfen Ventures, and the SAP.iO fund (SAP’s venture arm) all participated in the latest round. Sedna, which announced a $10 million series A round in December, in March formed a partnership with SAP to coordinate transportation management system tasks based on a number of common customers.

Wasted inbox time

David Pullin, vice president of operations at Sedna customer Wilhelmsen Ships Service, the ship agency subsidiary of Norway-based maritime conglomerate Wilhelmsen, said the goal in searching for a better communication platform was to minimize the time spent searching for critical information in email inboxes.

“Sedna has enabled our teams to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on supporting our customers’ operations in port,” Pullin told JOC.com. “The fact that it is a solution that was founded in port operations is a big plus.”

Pullin added that the ease of use of the system has helped drive adoption in Wilhelmsen’s business.

“Good solutions don’t have to be complex,” he said. “Sedna has allowed us to focus more on the vessel while it is in port and spend less time on archiving emails. This has allowed our operations teams to deliver the high-quality service that is expected from our customers.”

Sedna said a statement that its system, on average, saves its customers more than 10 hours per week per user.

Liu-Doyle, meanwhile, said Insight has long been intent on investing in a “next-generation” workflow software for enterprises that is widely used within a team and could easily spread to different teams within that organization.

“Sedna user behavior, even early on, was very consistent,” she told JOC.com. “It was clearly a daily use tool. You can’t cheat daily usage. And they have the ambition to deal with massive volumes, in really technical use cases, and deliver the right information on things like a purchase order or contract at the right time. These issues can cost millions of dollars, so the ramifications are significant.”

Liu-Doyle said Insight was also drawn to a solution that didn’t presume users would abandon email, but did take advantage of “an increased appetite to experiment with new software solutions,” including application programming interface-based (API) tools.

“That appetite further accelerated a shift to cloud,” she said. “There’s more data than ever before being exchanged, and the API market is enabling that. The appetite to adopt point solutions for a specific use case, outside of an Oracle or Microsoft package, has increased.”

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