Based in Mechelen, Belgium, Customs4trade has created a comprehensive customs and trade compliance platform. The company has just raised an additional €3m in equity funding in a round which brought total funding raised to date to over €5.1m.
In conjunction with the new raise, Pieter Haesaert, CEO and founder, answered some questions about the company, the needs they want to satisfy, the same funding and future plans.
FinSMEs: Hi Pieter, can you tell us a bit more about you. What’s your background?
Pieter: In the early years, I was advising enterprise companies in the domain of customs and international trade. From the beginning however, I believed the only way businesses could shift from reactive to proactive mode with regards to customs was to abandon the time consuming, error-prone manual processes in favor of technology. I promised to myself to transform customs management from a cost center to an organisational epicenter of information, supporting growth and global expansion. This was the foundation for C4T in 2004 and this is what still drives us today.
FinSMEs: Let’s speak about Customs4trade. Which is the market problem do you want to solve? Which is the real opportunity?
Pieter: We want to allow customs managers to take full control of their customs management. While customs declarations have come a long way, now standardised and submitted as electronic messages, gathering all necessary data elements from across the organisation remains a challenge. Synchronisation of business processes, legal compliance, and sharing information with business partners and third parties also lies in the domain of customs compliance, yet to date these have been riddled with complexity and manual tasks. C4T’s solution automates these processes, while at the same time gathering crucial data that gives the business insights and visibility that will help them optimise the entire flow.
FinSMEs: How does Customs4trade work? Which are the main features?
Pieter: CAS is an end-to-end solution for customs and trade management. It’s designed by and for customs experts in order to drive efficiency in a time-critical and complex customs and trade landscape. CAS is a Software-as-a-Service solution, which means it is kept up to date with changing legislation and tariff measures automatically. It can easily be integrated with your ERP/WMS data and administration. The result? A user-friendly modular customs software solution, that will automate your customs declarations flawlessly, that will help you become and stay compliant with new regulations effortlessly and that help you achieve significant business value fast.
FinSMEs: What are the features differentiating the product from competitors?
Pieter: CAS is integrated with some of the main European countries with regards to customs formalities, Belgium, the UK, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland and further integration with EU countries, including Italy and Germany, is on the agenda. We want to become the main European player for customs and trade management. We’ve implemented fast onboarding and configuration and are incorporating machine learning to ensure a higher level of compliance and make CAS better every day. Visibility and analytics are available through our Insights module and customs duty savings can be easily identified and achieved through CAS Special Procedures, our clients have the ability to share data with business partners seamlessly.
FinSMEs: You just raised a new funding round. Please, tell us something more about it…
Pieter: We raised an additional € 3 million in equity funding. This brings the total investment in C4T from € 2 million to € 5 million in just 12 short months! This latest round of financing was led by the French venture capital firm Hi Inov – Dentressangle with the participation of our first investors, Munich-based B2B specialist 42CAP and 10x Group. As part of the investment agreement, Hi Inov Managing Partner Wolfgang Krause will join C4T’s board. FinSMEs: How are you using the funds? Pieter: Funding will be used to put C4T on the map for customs and trade solutions and services with accelerated customer growth in the European market.
FinSMEs: Can you share some numbers of your business?
Pieter: Along the way we have established partnerships with the World Customs Organisation (WCO) Academy, International Chamber of Commerce in Belgium (ICC Belgium)—together with which we founded the Customs Professional Award, our customers and last but not least Microsoft. In addition, our SaaS solution CAS was recognized in the latest “Gartner Market Guide for Global Trade Management Software” published on July 10, 2019 as a Representative Vendor in Global Trade Management — Compliance Focus. Today our international tribe has grown to more than 40 employees strong built on a company culture that is passionate about developing excellent customs and trade solutions.
FinSMEs: what’s your medium-term plans?
1. Our Special Procedures module, which is already being used extensively by several customers, will be extended to serve a wider variety of use cases. Our Bonded Warehouse (CWH), Inward Processing (IPR), and Outward Processing (OPR) flows will become more elaborate, fulfilling all possible business needs.
2. CAS went live in the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands in 2017, and since then we have substantially extended functionality for these three countries. At the end of 2019, we proudly announced that CAS now integrates with the French customs system. We are currently finalising the integration with Switzerland (eDec) and further integration with EU countries, including Italy and Germany, is on the agenda.
3. As data is absolutely key to generating the insights and perspective you need to improve your business, we have dedicated time and resources to ensure you can gather the data you need and share it with business partners and third parties alike. This will remain a priority for 2020, and we will focus on:
- Extending our Machine Learning functionalities to improve the customs declarations process, reducing human error, detecting significant differences in values, and suggesting better classification codes to reduce costs.
- Continued data integration with third parties, such as customs brokers and ports.
- Quick and efficient onboarding with APIs that allow for fast and simple integration with your ERP or WMS. These APIs will be improved to ensure integrating with CAS is as effortless as possible.
4. To provide our customers with a better experience, we created a Customer Success Team composed of both solutions and domain experts, who will closely work together with our Product Team. We aim to make the customer onboarding process as short as possible and allow customers to onboard to CAS in a matter of hours. Our fast onboarding flow, including self-configurable decision tables for customs-specific and other data, is facilitating this goal. We know that lodging a customs declaration, with or without Special Procedures, requires a lot of data. We have already made sure that you only need to provide the necessary data, no more and no less Using CAS allows you to configure all customs logic within the system, meaning you only need to transfer a limited set of logistics and financial data.
Our customs experts are closely following every legal update that pops up and updating it in CAS. We continue to work on Brexit enablement, the switch from CHIEF to CDS in the UK, the evolution from AGS to DMS, the Dutch customs system, and follow up the changes in Belgium for the monthly periodic declarations.
As you can see, the future looks bright for us, and CAS will have extended enormously by the end of 2020. Want to see what CAS can offer you now? You can watch our demo video here