Startup of the Day: Digicust, digital customs clearance platform provider

Founded in 2020, Vienna-based Digicust develops machine learning and AI-based systems for the digitalization and automation of customs documents processing for freight forwarders and other enterprises. The startup also offers its virtual customs robot, Dexter IDP, which builds on companies’ own IT infrastructures without any major changes. Digicust aims to decrease expenses and time-consuming tasks enormously, while providing support in delivering a more qualitative service.  

In the Startup of the Day column, the founding team of Digicust, shares more details about the startup’s idea, its product, and future plans.

The Startup of the Day column on AIN.Capital is dedicated to tech projects from all sectors that originated from the CEE countries. If you would like to introduce your project, please fill in the questionnaire.

Tell us about your startup. How does it work?

The aim / vision of Digicust is to decrease expenses and time-consuming tasks enormously, while providing support in delivering a more qualitative service. This shall be achieved by developing a AI-based web app Digital Customs that integrates virtual customs robots, providing:

  • The fill out of smart customs declarations (Dexter IDP)
  • The examination and request of smart customs documents (Neo)
  • Machine customs code classification (Taric)
  • Simple, green, safe semi- and/or fully automated, explainable (customs clearance & machine) processes
  • Digital data work without paper consumption and manual data entry, and providing
  • The basis for the Internet of Customs with interconnected machines along supply chains

How did you come up with the startup’s idea? What was the reason/motivation behind it?

Our CEO Borisav has worked as a professional customs broker for DHL Express, DB Schenker and FedEx. While working for the latter companies, he studied Digital Business Innovation and Transformation at the IMC University Krems where he met his co-founder Matthias Pfeiler and together with the other co-founders Thomas Übellacker, Manuel Strauz, Ahmad haj Mosa, and Michael Lisci founded Digicust 2020. The purpose behind this was to revolutionize customs processes in depth and generate knowledge about them. For the past 4 years, Borisav and his ambitious colleagues have been developing Digicust and the Dexter IDP (intelligent document processing) product to take the era of digitalization in customs to the next level.

How long did it take to reach the prototype or MVP? What did you encounter?

After our first state investment, we launched our MVP within a year. In the meantime, Dexter IDP is used by haulage companies in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

When exactly did you launch your product? Or when the launch is planned?

We launched our product in January 2022.

Tell us about the stratup’s business model. How do you monetize your product?

The Digicust business model contains the following components:

  • Software-as-a-service – with software-as-a-service, the customer can use the software directly via web application without the need to install the software on his computer and use his resources;
  • module- and feature-based offering – virtual customs robots, customs clearance procedures, master data modules, statistics, the KPI toolbox and many further features can be sold in various combinations and offerings;
  • dedicated AI-engines and databases – companies who do not want to get their documents and data processed / saved by a generic AI-engine and database, have the possibility to purchase dedicated AI engines and databases;
  • digitalization & mass-customization – Digicust creates digital value chains and replicates the whole customs process in a digital way. By applying the cycle of structured and qualitative data, automating customs processes be-comes globally applicable and scalable throughout various customs declarations;
  • (eventually) revenue sharing with distribution partners, and pay-per-use including hybrid billing – paid per customs case, or per docu-ment or per customs code classification. The higher the volume, the lower the price;
  • bonus system with a fixed price – the customer pays a fixed price, e.g. per year. In case that additional volume has been claimed, the price per piece decreases;
  • bootstrapping – purchases are paid annually, semi- or quarter-annually upfront in packages.

What are your target markets and consumers?

Our target group is medium- to large-sized forwarders, customs brokers (all sizes), transnational companies (medium- to big sized), customs clearance software provider, ERP & supply chain management software providers.

If the startup has already launched the product, what are the results: metrics, income, or any clear indicators that can be evaluated.

The revenue growth has been calculated by assuming a scalable growth scenario with over proportional revenue generation from €4,000 in 2021 to €85,000 in 2022 equaling a 20x growth, and a further growth of 3x on average resulting in €104,000,000 revenue in 2027. Each product is introduced gradually from year to year, from country to country. In 2023 and 2024, the project expenditures amount to approximately €5,600,000.

What about your team? How many people are working in the startup? If you’re looking for new employees, indicate whom exactly.

  • Managing Director & Founder: Parmakovic Borisav;
  • M.A. Executives: Chief Technology Innovation & Co-Founder Dr. Tech. Ahmad Haj Mosa;
  • M.Sc., Chief Operation Officer, Thomas Übellacker;
  • Chief Marketing Officer & Co-Founder Matthias Pfeiler;
  • Chief Customs Officer & Co-Founder Michael Lisci;
  • B.A. Technical Key Team Members: Sr. Machine Learning Engineer Dr. Mouhannad Ali, Sr. Software Engineer & Co-Founder Manuel Strausz (rest see integral planning), Arsalan Baig, M. Phil. (Sr. Software Engineer);
  • Business key team members: Borisav Parmakovic, M.A., Michael Lisci, B.A., Thomas Übellacker, Matthias Pfeiler, B.A., Rashid Rasheed, M.Sc., Dawood Mughal, Tolga Erkoc, Andreas Knogler;

Have you already raised any investments? Provide us with more details on each funding round: the amount, investors, the purpose of the investment.

In March 2023 Digicust secured €100,000 from the Bulgarian growth investor Sofia Angels Ventures.

What’s next? Tell us about your future plans.

Innovation management is one of the main components of the Digicust business strategy. Hence, Digicust pursues multiple strategies and tools to realize its products and goals, such as:

  • design thinking, the Blue Ocean Strategy in combination with ERIC (eliminate unnecessary features, reduce not so needed features, increase desired features and create new features that have a big need but are not available in the market)
  • finding the innovation sweet spot, as well as many other approaches like the lead user theory, lean startup, agile development including the SCRUM project management approach, and the effectuation entrepreneur method.