Flexport lands billion-dollar investment from SoftBank

Ryan Petersen

It’s getting harder to call Flexport a scrappy little logistics tech startup from San Francisco. Today, the five-year-old full-service online forwarder raised US$1 billion in a funding round, led by Silicon Valley’s SoftBank Vision Fund, bring its total valuation to $3.2 billion. With a “B.”

Other investors in the round were Founders Fund, DST Global, Cherubic Ventures, Susa Ventures and Chinese carrier SF Express, according to Forbes. As a result, Michael Ronen, managing partner of Vision Fund, will join Flexport’s board of directors. Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen, meanwhile will keep his majority control of the company.

Flexport has already raised $304 million in several rounds of funding since 2014, and had revenues topping $471 million in 2018 – a 110 percent increase over its haul from 2017, Forbes reported. A latest count, Flexport employed 1,066 people at 11 offices and four warehouses worldwide.

On the Flexport Blog, Petersen wrote today that “we’re building something no one’s built before” – a model called the Operating System for Global Trade., a cloud-based global logistics platform that brings together importers, exporters, ocean carriers, airlines, warehouses, trucking companies, and customs brokerages to provide “deep visibility and control, from origin to destination.”

He also said he is looking to hire software engineers, data scientists, designers, operations specialists, logistics experts and other staff for Flexport’s new Chicago technology and engineering center, as well as support humanitarian relief efforts, economic development and environmental sustainability as the company grows.

Zvi Schreiber, CEO of rival Freightos, wrote on LinkedIn, congratulating Petersen and adding that the infusion of cash was “great news” for the entire digital forwarding sector. “Flexport will likely make massive IT investment, expand their physical presence (e.g. more aircraft), and continue advocating the importance of a modern digital freight experience for customers,” Schreiber wrote.

Neel Jones Shah

In addition, Flexport also announced today that Neel Jones Shah, its senior vice president and global head of airfreight, has been appointed to the TIACA Board of Directors. “The freight forwarding industry, like much of the supply chain, is going through a period of great change, and improved collaboration and transparency throughout our industry is paramount to our future,” said Shah.

Just last week, Shah confirmed that Flexport will be launching a new weekly Private Air Service (PAS) from Hong Kong International (HKG) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD), via 747-400F aircraft flown by Western Global Airlines, which will likely commence service on Feb. 23. Flexport also currently operates weekly 747-400F service between HKG and Los Angeles (LAX).

Those interested in learning how digital forwarders like Flexport are impacting the air cargo industry are invited to join us at Cargo Facts Asia 2019, to be held 15-17 April at the Langham Shanghai. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com. Discounted early-bird registration ends 1 March.

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