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Borderlands: Nowports aims to be supply chain ally for Latam trade

Nowport aims to streamline the import and export processes of Latin American companies by improving visibility for suppliers, shipping companies, end customers, customs agents and terminals. Pictured is Port Houston. (Photo: Jim Allen)

Nowports aims to be supply chain ally for Latam trade 

When Alfonso De los Ríos co-founded digital freight forwarder Nowports, the goal was to impact Latin America’s trade industry using cutting-edge technology.

De los Ríos, 23, said he had become interested in how trade affected the development and economies of countries in the region.

“When we decided to start Nowports, it wasn’t too much about logistics or trade, it was more about the impact that trade had in Latin America,” De los Ríos, also Nowports’ CEO, told FreightWaves. “We were amazed how we could change any industry that was the same for more than 70 years. One of the driving forces for us is to go into markets that have been underserved for a lot of years and add technology to it.”

De los Ríos co-founded Nowports in 2018 with Maximiliano Casal, the company’s COO. Nowports recently secured $150 million in a Series C round, helping the Monterrey, Mexico-based company land a $1.1 billion valuation.

The latest funding round propelled Nowports into unicorn status (a startup with a value of over $1 billion), helping it become one of the most valuable startups in the country. Other Mexican unicorns include Bitso, Clara, Konfio, Merama, Kavak and Stori. Nowports is the only Mexican unicorn startup not located in Mexico City.

De los Rios said helping Nowports achieve unicorn status has been “amazing.”

“It comes with a great responsibility because we are the first outside Mexico City. It’s our responsibility to show that companies in smaller cities can revolutionize an industry and create global solutions,” De los Ríos said. “Last year, Monterrey was one of the cities with the most companies in Y Combinator, [a California-based technology startup accelerator], so I think that’s a good sign.”

Nowports founders Maximiliano Casal and Alfonso De los Ríos. (Photo: Nowports)

Nowports digitizes activities such as communications, documents, customs compliance and financing, using blockchain — a digital database for storing records of value and transactions — to connect shippers to carriers.

The aim is to streamline the import and export processes of Latin American companies by improving visibility for suppliers, shipping companies, end customers, customs agents and terminals.

“Our goal is to become like a blockchain operating system, not only of Latin America, but of all emerging markets,” De los Ríos said.

Nowports has operations in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Panama. De los Ríos said the company is continuously looking for opportunities to grow geographically, as well as expanding services.

“We are expanding overseas and we hope that a big part of our solutions are not only providing your shipments visibility and transparency, but providing financial services to companies,” De los Ríos said.

Recent global events could also aid the growth of Latin American trade, as more companies are either relocating or expanding existing operations in North and South America, De los Ríos said.

“When we talk about foreign investment, most of the big companies that are thinking about coming to Latin America to produce their own products are coming here for more security, a more stable political status, etc.,”  De los Ríos said.

“When we are talking about a company moving from Asia to Latin America, I think there’s definitely a trend because we are seeing big corporations moving to places in Mexico like the Bajío region [central Mexico], which has a huge automotive manufacturing cluster. I think the future is bright for Latin America. It’s not just because we are attracting more manufacturing away from Asia, but also because Latin America overall is exporting more products overseas to Asia, to Europe, etc.”

US files labor complaint against auto parts plant in Mexico

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) filed a labor complaint Thursday against a U.S.-owned auto parts plant in Mexico.

The request to probe the factory, owned by Michigan-based VU Manufacturing, came after complaints the company had interfered in workers’ ability to choose their union, according to a release.

The Mexican plant, known as Manufacturas VU, is in the city of Piedras Negras, across the U.S.-Mexico border from Eagle Pass, Texas. Troy, Michigan-based VU Manufacturing makes interior auto parts for doors, seats and dash consoles.

USTR’s request was made in response to a petition filed by two Mexican labor organizations and marks the fifth time the United States has used the Rapid Response Labor Mechanism (RRLM) in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that was ratified in 2020. 

“Workers deserve the right to freely organize for the union of their choice,” U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in a release. “We look forward to working with the Government of Mexico to promptly address this issue, as we have done in prior instances.”

Tesla suppliers have dedicated lane at US-Mexico border bridge

Electric vehicle maker Tesla reportedly has an exclusive commercial lane for its automotive suppliers at a U.S.-Mexico border crossing near Laredo, Texas, according to Bloomberg.

The Tesla lane is on the Mexico side of the Colombia Solidarity International Bridge, which connects Laredo to the Mexican state of Nuevo León. The bridge has a total of eight lanes. One of the lanes now has the “Tesla” logo over it.

“What we want is a crossing that’s much more expedited and efficient,” Nuevo León’s economy minister, Iván Rivas, told Bloomberg. “And maybe there will be a lane for other companies in the future like there is for Tesla.”

Rivas did not provide any details of how many daily shipments or trucks Tesla moves across the U.S.-Mexico border. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment from FreightWaves.

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) has recently made deals with six automotive suppliers in Mexico to supply electric vehicle parts and materials to the company’s new manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas.

The Colombia Solidarity International Bridge is one of two bridges used for commercial trade in Laredo, the other being the World Trade Bridge. As many as 8,000 commercial tractor-trailers a day cross both bridges, carrying everything from cars, auto parts and produce to electronics and medical equipment.

Laredo CBP seizes $4.3M worth of meth from tractor-trailer

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently discovered more than 200 pounds of methamphetamine in a tractor-trailer in Laredo, Texas.

On Monday, CBP officers searched a tractor-trailer arriving from Mexico at the World Trade Bridge cargo facility. The truck was hauling a shipment of water-based rubber. 

Officers discovered five containers holding 216 pounds of alleged methamphetamine within the shipment. The narcotics had an estimated street value of $4.3 million.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]