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Ship-shape collaboration

Cambridge Judge Business School alumni link up to help digital shipping exchange NYSHEX cruise ahead with $13 million in new funding.

Cargo ship in the ocean at twilight

Connections forged at Cambridge Judge Business School have helped a New York-based company offer a third option in global shipping – fully enforceable contracts for unplanned cargo at relatively short notice.

Gordon Downes

Gordon Downes (MBA 2009)

The New York Shipping Exchange (NYSHEX), founded in 2015 by Cambridge MBA graduate Gordon Downes (MBA 2009), is a digital exchange used by shippers, freight forwarders and ocean carriers for forward freight contracts – offering an alternative to long-term contracts and the spot market in shipping.

Seeking new investment last year, Gordon, now CEO of NYSHEX, posted about the fundraising on LinkedIn, and received a response from Mark Weaver, a graduate of the Master of Finance (MFin 2009) programme at Cambridge Judge who is involved with venture capital in New York.

“I thought NYSHEX would be of interest to Goldman Sachs’ Principal Strategic Investments (PSI) group, which invests in market infrastructure technology – and that is core to NYSHEX’s focus in changing the logistics landscape,” says Mark. “So I made an introduction to Rana Yared, a managing director in the PSI group, and we listened to Gordon’s pitch regarding NYSHEX and were both impressed.”

Not long afterwards, Rana invited Gordon to meet others at Goldman Sachs, which led earlier this year to a new $13 million Series A funding round involving Goldman Sachs’ PSI group, GE Ventures and other investors including leading container shipping firms Maersk Line, Hapag-Lloyd and CMA-CGM. The new funding, will help NYSHEX to expand its exchange globally.

Mark Weaver

Mark Weaver (MFin 2009)

“This new round of financing wouldn’t have happened without Mark, and it will really help grow the business and develop our technology,” says Gordon, a native of South Africa who previously worked in shipping at beverage company SABMiller, Maersk Line and freight forwarder Damco, working in Asia, Africa, Europe and the US.

“This all developed after I updated my LinkedIn page, and talked about NYSHEX. Mark responded and said, ‘I have someone who may be interested’ and that happened to be Rana, and later speaking to Rana I realized that her team and personal experience were a really good fit with NYSHEX. They provided great insight into how we could do something differently in the shipping exchange.”

NYSHEX says that 84 per cent of shippers need to make shipments of unplanned cargo at relatively short notice not covered by existing long-term service contracts, so the exchange’s forward freight contracts – which lock in price and logistics from two weeks to six months into the future – reduce both airfreight costs and supply chain risks.

Rana, now a board member of NYSHEX, spoke to current MFin students at Cambridge Judge on 18 January about the shipping exchange and other investments of the Goldman Sachs PSI group as part of the MFin Speaker Series.

Mark Denne

Mark Denne (MBA 2009)

For NYSHEX, the Cambridge Judge connection doesn’t end with the collaboration between Gordon and Mark that helped cement the recent fundraising round. The design of the exchange’s initial technology platform was by Mark Denne (MBA 2009), a classmate of Gordon’s. “He has a wealth of knowledge in technology, and we still use the architecture he designed,” says Gordon.

In addition, Gordon says that several other Cambridge Judge alumni have helped NYSHEX along the way – including angel investors in the exchange John Gantt (MBA 2009) and Ziad Mantoura (MBA 2009).

Mark recalls from his time at Cambridge Judge the importance placed on entrepreneurship, so he’s glad to be able to link up with fellow alumni. “I’m glad that I was able to collaborate with Gordon on this successful fundraising round,” he says. “It shows that collaboration at Cambridge Judge doesn’t stop at graduation.”