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Bill Gates backs Uber freight rival, joining other billionaires

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As Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos jockey for the designation of world's wealthiest man, the Seattle billionaires are united behind at least one local venture. They're both investors in a trucking logistics startup that competes with Uber Technologies Inc.

[SEATTLE] As Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos jockey for the designation of world's wealthiest man, the Seattle billionaires are united behind at least one local venture. They're both investors in a trucking logistics startup that competes with Uber Technologies Inc.

Convoy Inc, a two-year-old Seattle company, makes software that matches nearby and available truckers to a shipping job. Convoy said Tuesday it raised a new round of funding from Bill Gates's Cascade Investment and other backers. Mr Gates joins Amazon.com Inc.'s Bezos, who invested earlier. The latest financing totals US$62 million.

The investment won't break the bank for Mr Gates or Mr Bezos, whose fortunes are within $3 billion of each other, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. But Convoy has become a hot startup investment among fellow billionaires. Salesforce.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff and KKR & Co. co-CEO Henry Kravis are also shareholders. IAC/InterActiveCorp. Chairman Barry Diller participated in the new round with Mr Gates.

Convoy was initially pitched as an "Uber for trucking" and has raised US$80 million in total since starting in 2015. But this year, Uber rolled out its own version of on-demand trucking. The service, called Uber Freight, connects truck drivers with long-haul assignments. There are other providers, such as Trucker Path, but Uber's financial heft-having raised more than US$15 billion since its inception-makes it a force. That's despite distractions posed by a lawsuit claiming a former Uber executive, who was working on autonomous trucking technology, conspired with the company to steal trade secrets from Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo. Uber denies wrongdoing.

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Convoy CEO Dan Lewis said he hopes to take advantage of Uber's distractions. "It isn't clear what's going to happen with Uber," Mr Lewis said. "The leadership of the company in general is gone." Uber said its two-month-old freight service has been greeted by enthusiasm. "We've learned an incredible amount already and are continuing to recruit the top minds in the industry as we ramp up our investment in this technology," a spokeswoman wrote in an email.

Mr Lewis said Convoy is fulfilling thousands of shipments and generating millions in sales a week. He said sales volume is doubling every quarter but declined to provide figures. Consumer giants Unilever and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA have signed on as customers.

Convoy initially required pickups to originate in the Pacific Northwest and has since expanded to several other regions. It plans to use the new funds to go further, with operations in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and the South over the next year. Funds will also go toward software development. Mr Lewis declined to comment on Convoy's valuation.

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