Freight forwarding startup Verus Global hits $24m in first year

Freight forwarding startup Verus Global hits $24m in first year

Just over a year ago Jackson Meyer was spruiking a new freight forwarding business model built on overhauling "outdated" processes and branding while cutting third-parties out of the picture.

The budding entrepreneur claimed his business Verus Global would be able to reach turnover of $12 million in the first year of operation. Understandably, many were sceptical.

"I approached a series of investors and friends within the [Young Presidents' Organisation] network, and a lot of them obviously said 'no' to a 22-year-old at the time," Meyer tells Business News Australia.

"And then finally I got one that took a punt, and the feedback from the others was '$10 million in the first year? You're dreaming', which is probably fair enough."

The man who took a bet on Meyer was Dr Andrew Walker, a serial entrepreneur who had previously founded the likes of Aspen Medical (ASX:APZ) and Matrix Healthcare, which was sold to a divison of Sonic Healthcare (ASX: SHL).

Walker is the chairman of Verus Global, and has been mentoring and guiding Meyer through a whirlwind 12 months with the company, setting up offices in Australia, China, Hong Kong and the UK since it was launched on 17 January 2019.

Meyer brought across many former colleagues from his previous employer Transtar International Freight - one of Australia's largest freight forwarders - and he is thankful they put their faith in his ideas.

"I've got no doubt in my mind that we have the strongest team in the industry," says Meyer, who last year won the Melbourne Young Entrepreneur Award in Professional Services and the Australian Young Entrepreneur Award in the Startup category

The model boils down to greater digital integration, improved branding and establishing an international network so there are fewer touch points and no third-party hands on clients' cargo.

"Don't get me wrong - we do have massive overheads with having 15 offices and 53 staff across the world," he says, adding there will likely be new openings in the Philippines and Vietnam in February. 

"But we've been able to disrupt an industry through creating a modern-day freight forwarding business from literally zero dollars in revenue to $24 million AUD in less than 12 months."

He notes having overseas offices gives Verus Global an advantage in a saturated market, but it's also the simple things that are helping the business get ahead.

"We're finding niches in the market. The industry that we're in is not pretty, it's not aesthetically pleasing, there's nothing exciting about it -  it's moving stuff from A to B," he says.

"What we're trying to do is change the experience; we're breaking away from traditional outdated and old forwarding businesses and bringing a modern-day edge to it.

"We're utilising communication channels that haven't been used before, particularly in this industry. The decision-makers now are in their 30s - these people want to communicate on text, Whatsapp or WeChat. They'd rather get something done fast."

He says 2019 was about setting up a "launchpad" for Verus Global, and this year the approach will be to expand the company's offering. 

"We will be a $40 million business by the end of 2020, easy," says Meyer.

"We have to be really mindful of the businesses we bring on board, particularly in the retail space - it's all about choosing your clients, making sure they are a partner for long-term success.

"We're paying for companies to integrate with us electronically between our BIP platform and their ERP; we're doing that currently with a business that's listed on the New York Stock Exchange."

The young entrepreneur emphasises that despite the rapid growth, it has actually occurred "with the brakes on" and could be faster still.

"Being able to get involved with banks, the scale that it could grow and it will grow is really exciting going forward," he says.

"We see our business being a service provider and employer of choice that is deploying market leading IT for transparency and true visibility of clients' transactions and this, coupled with our own cargo handling facilities will bring us to a target of $150 million in five years."

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