Founder: Ryan Petersen (CEO)
Headquarters: San Francisco
Funding: $1.3 billion
Key technologies: Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, Internet of things, machine learning
Industry: Logistics, freight forwarding, supply chain management
Tracking and handling freight — a $1 trillion industry that keeps the world's economies humming — has largely been done on paper and via email and phone calls. Flexport is turning this "ancient" industry on its head. This San Francisco-based start-up is a global freight forwarder and customs broker powered by cloud software and an analytics platform. Its technology promises to use software to optimize speed, reliability and cost for its customers, including Sonos, Georgia-Pacific and Klean Kanteen. In early 2016 Sonos tested Flexport to transport its goods from China to Australia. Now Flexport is one of Sonos' four main logistics partners, which also includes package delivery giant UPS.
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Flexport 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.
In February the six-year-old company announced a staggering $1 billion funding round led by SoftBank's Vision Fund, pushing its valuation up to $3 billion. Flexport founder Ryan Petersen says the money will be used to build additional warehouses and possibly to purchase another plane. It's also planning to hire additional engineers and hire more local experts in its markets around the globe. The company has 1,000 employees in 11 offices around the world. Currently, it ships to 110 countries for more than 10,000 customers.
As it builds out the business, the company is also sharing in its good fortunes. Its nonprofit arm — Flexport.org — provides subsidized logistics support for humanitarian relief, and a carbon calculator so customers can see the environmental impact of their shipments.