AKUA, a company that provides companies shipping cargo with a new visibility of the goods they’re transporting, was chosen this summer to take part in a Silicon Valley accelerator that connects participants to large corporations.
It’s among 22 early-stage companies taking part in the Plug and Play accelerator program that’s specifically designed for companies working in logistics and supply chain. AKUA was chosen from a group that started with 500 companies following a pitch session to representatives from the corporations.
“It’s a validation that what we’re doing is potentially of big interest in the marketplace,” said AKUA Founder and CEO Neil Furukawa.
AKUA spun out of Inner Harbor-based CyberPoint International in 2016 to commercialize its cloud platform, which provides data and analytics taken from sensors that are increasingly being used in shipping.
The platform is designed to track packages from the “first to last mile,” Furukawa said, across modes of transportation like shipping, rail and trucking. The platform can provide key info for companies about the location and condition of their goods. AKUA also provides data about whether the goods were tampered with, facing dangers such as being opened and having goods swapped out with counterfeit merchandise.
Along with 12 weeks of business-building resources, mentorship workspace and networking events, participation in the program provides access for the company to a network of corporate partners. In supply chain and logistics, this includes C.H. Robinson, Walmart and Exxon Mobil. This deal flow programming provides the potential to make connections that could lead to business partnerships, as larger companies are looking to take advantage of new technology being developed by startups.
AKUA has been focused on product-market fit, which Furukawa said is likely “the most important stage for a startup.” That’s how a company determines a product’s validity among those who may want to buy it.
“The best way to determine product market fit is to talk to these potential customers, and with Plug and Play that’s really accelerated,” he said.
It’s a notable presence for a company that’s formed a presence of its own in the city. After raising $3 million in seed funding, Furukawa said the company operates on both coasts, with offices in California and Baltimore, plus remote employees. Locally, the company has a half-dozen full-time employees and contractors based in Baltimore working out of Inner Harbor’s Spark Baltimore. The software development and cybersecurity talent in the area continues to make Baltimore attractive, the founder noted.
Baltimore is also close to AKUA’s federal government clients. Other markets it operates in include third-party logistics companies, shipping companies, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and high-end luxury goods.-30-