SoftBank is leading a $1 billion investment in logistics start-up Flexport

  • SoftBank's Vision Fund is leading a $1 billion round in Flexport, a shipping and logistics company.
  • The company is reportedly valued around $3 billion.
FLEXPORT PETERSON
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SoftBank's Vision Fund just made one of its biggest start-ups investments yet, leading a $1 billion round in a company that's moving freight across the globe.

Flexport, which describes itself as a "modern freight forwarder," announced the financing on Thursday and said it expects the deal to close in the second quarter after regulatory approval.

The funding comes a day after SoftBank's Vision Fund led a $200 million investment in physical storage start-up Clutter. The $100 billion Vision Fund continues to write massive checks to fast-growing companies that are applying technology to old industries, whether it's Uber in ride-hailing, DoorDash in food delivery or WeWork in real estate.

In the case of Flexport, the company moves freight by air, ocean, rail and truck, handling the packages as well as all the customs information required. Flexport's technology provides data that helps customers analyze costs, container utilization and emissions, and keep track of their supply chain. It includes support for smaller LCL (less than full container) shipments that bigger players often treat as low priority.

"Our business is super scale-driven, and that's SoftBank's entire modus operandi," Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen said in an interview. SoftBank is out "to drive and inject scale into companies, and help them go faster," he said.

Petersen said the terms were "clean" and "founder friendly," with SoftBank getting one board seat — for managing partner Michael Ronen — and no additional preferences on its shares. The company didn't disclose a valuation, though Axios previously reported that it could be around $3 billion.

Ronen told CNBC that Flexport is unique in "going after what is essentially a pretty boring space and doing it in an incredibly innovative way."

Flexport said in the press release that it doubled revenue last year to almost $500 million and now has close to 1,000 employees in 11 offices around the world.

The fresh capital should help Flexport continue to grow and lure customers as Amazon invests more heavily in providing global logistics services to marketplace sellers.

"We're in early days," Ronen said. "Amazon is amazing at what it does, but there is a whole universe of merchants and global trade that is operating outside Amazon and doesn't have their scale." He said that SoftBank's investment in Flexport, "is not so much about going against Amazon, but supporting everyone else that needs a better solution and needs some scale."

The financing round had participation from existing investors, including Peter Thiel's Founders Fund and Yuri Milner's DST Global.

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