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Startup Profile 2020: eTEU

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular stand to benefit from the blockchain technology at the heart of eTEU’s eponymous document transfer and data sharing platform.

Whether shipping bulk goods or containerised cargo, the chances are each consignment will generate a significant amount of paperwork and documentation. While much of the required data is highly repetitive in nature, this documentation nevertheless needs to be completed correctly and supplied to the relevant stakeholder(s) in a timely manner to avoid costly delays and disruptions. This, though, is not always easy, especially for smaller companies operating within the shipping, logistics and freight forwarding spheres. Fortunately for them, though, UK-based startup eTEU could well have the blockchain-enabled solution they have been waiting for.

“eTEU has two features – a document transfer system and the newly-developed mechanism of automated document drafting,” says COO Kristian Volohhonski. “Document transfer works in a very simple manner: the document (for example, the Bill of Lading) is created on the platform and is then signed digitally by the parties involved and transferred from one to the other. This way, members of the supply chain minimise the risk of the documents arriving late. Since this process is done digitally, the documents are delivered in an almost instant fashion. The hashes of the documents are validated through [the platform’s blockchain technology] to make sure that the documents are delivered in a [secure] manner and that they have not been [illicitly] manipulated.”

Meanwhile, the document drafting system, he continues, automates the process of creating and populating the various forms required for international trade. “The freight forwarder fills out a form and the data inputs are then distributed across multiple documents to avoid repeating the same process of filling out the documents over and over again. This is also done to avoid any mistakes that can occur during the repeated process of creating documents as well,” Volohhonski explains, noting that this particular feature will greatly optimise the workflow of a freight forwarder, enhancing their efficiency and boosting productivity.

Although blockchain technology is not new in itself, it has to date been typically the preserve of larger and ergo wealthier global players rather than SMEs, the very companies that eTEU is looking to service. “The main benefits of eTEU is the accessibility for the smaller players in the market,” he states. “The industry is going through a rapid process of digitalisation and SMEs are struggling to keep up with the progress. With the help of eTEU, the smallest of players could potentially digitise their documentation process and avoid the costs and issues that can occur with the traditional methods of document transfer and creation. In addition, it is the increased speed of work that will be possible with eTEU – the documents are transferred quickly and securely [while] the drafting process becomes much more streamlined.”

“I believe that also the functionality of automated document drafting with a blockchain system of document transfer acts really well as a full solution and has not yet been seen together in one solution,” he says. “There are companies that do similar things but in separate features/platforms.”

COO Kristian Volohhonski

At present, the eTEU platform, Volohhonski reports, is “in the process of testing”, being put through its paces in real-world scenarios by “a list of freight forwarders in Estonia and Ukraine”. These companies, he notes, “have already provided useful feedback” that has led to a number of new updates and enhancements that “are now being implemented in parallel to the development of the document drafting feature”.

“Unfortunately, with the spread of Covid-19 the roadmap for testing and launch has been stretched out,” he says. However, with many employees in the shipping and freight forwarding sectors now having to work remotely as a direct consequence of the current pandemic, the eTEU platform could will prove a boon in helping affected firms “better adapt to the new conditions of international trade”.

“Our team at eTEU believes that the unfortunate crisis at hand will have a serious effect on the working conditions of all companies within the shipping space. Many freight forwarders are working from home already and will probably continue to do so for the next few weeks if not months. We are happy to work out how we can help and cooperate with any company that needs help with digitising their documentation processes regardless of the size of the company,” Volohhonski states.

Comprised of Volohhonski, CEO Eduard Oboimov, CBDO Valentyne Kutateladze and head of sales Mykhaylo Lepekha, eTEU’s team of four co-founders met during the 2017/2018 Kickstart London startup programme. A young team, all four are able to draw upon direct or family-based experience of the contemporary shipping industry.

More information on the company can be found on the eTEU website

About Author

Brian Dixon is a business and industry journalist with more than 20 years' experience writing about ports and logistics. A member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, he has covered stories on six continents. He divides his time between the UK and East Asia