Flexport: Freight Forwarding and Supply Chain Services

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Ryan Petersen, Founder and CEO, FlexportRyan Petersen, Founder and CEO
International freight forwarding in the US has been dominated by small businesses, with most of them relying on antiquated systems including faxing, paper logging, and calling up carriers to coordinate their supply chain. Though digitizing the concerned paperwork and automating processes look like a plausible idea to navigate this mess, executing it successfully in reality is a tedious task. Recent headlines have highlighted the requirement for tech adoption in the logistics space. For example, shipping carrier Hanjin’s 2016 collapse stranded 400,000 containers aboard its ships and left 8,300 cargo owners with no visibility over their freight.

San Francisco based Flexport, a leading freight forwarding company, is modernizing global trade through a combination of software and human expertise. Flexport brings together advanced technology and data analytics, logistics infrastructure, and supply chain expertise to deliver a remarkably better experience. Flexport uses data and software to provide greater visibility and control to clients through freight forwarding service, which facilitates the international shipment of freight through coordination with manufacturers, warehouses, shipping carriers, and other global trade players. It offers its clients with real-time shipment tracking, analytics, and a proactive issue management solution that assists businesses to transport their cargo around the world efficiently.

Ryan Petersen, CEO, and founder of Flexport, indulged in logistics and shipping after having spent two years in China while working in the supply chain space as a customer of freight forwarders. It was there that he came across the obstacles faced by businesses looking to ship goods internationally. Peterson ended up developing his technology, with which he started working alongside small companies by providing visibility into their supply chains. Thus the foundation of Flexport was laid in 2013, and the company has kept achieving new heights ever since. “We operate more quickly and more reliably than traditional freight forwarders because of the technology that augments our team’s expertise. It’s this combination of human and machine intelligence that sets us apart,” says Petersen.

Flexport’s key services, which mainly rely on the company’s software platform, include Global forwarding (ocean/air/ land). The firm provides global freight forwarding to enterprise-level customers looking to ship goods internationally by the ocean, air, or land through its software platform. The freight forwarders facilitate the international shipment of freight through coordination with manufacturers, warehouses, shipping carriers, and other global trade players. Customers using Flexport’s global forwarding platform obtain a dashboard to track and monitor global shipments in real-time; data analytics/reporting to gain a better understanding of their supply chain; and multiple competitive pricing quotes for each shipment. Apart from the software platform, a dedicated Flexport employee is allocated as a single point of contact for each customer. To facilitate seamless transfer of cargo through all transportation modes, the company has obtained several licenses and approvals from organizations such as the Federal Maritime Commission, the Transportation Security Administration, the US Department of Transportation, and the Federal Motor Safety Administration.

Beyond these licenses, Flexport’s customs professionals assist its clients with clearing goods through customs agencies around the world. Specifically, the company implements its software in combination with its in-house customs brokerage experts to ensure that: freight can clear customs efficiently; products are classified correctly for tariff and duty purposes; country-specific government-agency forms are completed, and US customs bonds are registered. Flexport offers a range of services that help integrate data and software into a client’s broader supply chain operations. The startup’s services include cargo quality inspections, low-rate cargo insurance, as well as partnerships with warehousing services. However, Flexport plans to build warehousing facilities in every major location of its global footprint to carry out its own warehousing services.

We operate more quickly and more reliably than traditional freight forwarders because of the technology that augments our team’s expertise. It’s this combination of human and machine intelligence that sets us apart

Flexport exhibits a 360-degree business perspective, handling trucking and delivery, ocean and air freight, cargo insurance, customs clearances, quality inspections, and warehousing needs. These processes generate a lot of data, which Flexport leverages for creating better data analytics solutions.

Concerning competition in the market, Flexport is a notch above the rest. While its competitors have traditionally tracked most of their client data on paper, Flexport analyzes its client data to optimize shipping routes and streamline relationships with other players along the shipping container supply chain, such as shipping carriers and ports. This enables Flexport to cut five days off travel time for shipping an LCL (less than container load) on specific global routes, which is attractive to potential customers.

Thousands of industry leaders and challengers alike are working with Flexport to help optimize their freight shipments, digitally transform operations, and grow their businesses. For instance, maker of the first deep-dish pizza pan, American Metalcraft had been working with the same forwarder for over a decade. Legacy logistics processes made it difficult for American Metalcraft to efficiently manage its in-transit inventory and accurately measure its total product cost. With Flexport, American Metalcraft’s buying team found the greater transparency into their in-transit inventory they were looking for, enabling them to move quicker and smarter. The added visibility and real-time notifications had also been game-changers for their finance team, who was able to pull timely financial data to assess the financial health of their supply chain. As a right partner for its client supply chain, Flexport worked with American Metalcraft each step of the way to ensure they were getting the most of its platform and their partnership.

As a measure to protect the environment, Flexport has partnered with the Carbonfund.org Foundation to offer its clients a carbon footprint offset program. Since the shipping industry is one of the world’s largest sources of pollutions, clients have the opportunity to offset their transportation footprint by donating carbon credits through this program and reach their corporate responsibility goals by going 100 percent carbon neutral. If clients choose to opt in to this program for all their freight moves, Flexport team will add a donation line item to every invoice (just $7 per carbon tonne). One hundred percent of these donations will be passed through to Carbonfund. org, where they will be allocated to third-party verified sustainability initiatives such as generating international wind energy, avoiding deforestation in the Amazonian Basin, Brazil, electrifying truck stops in the US, etc. Participants will receive updates, offset data, and photographs from the projects they are contributing to as well as a certificate with one of two designations: Carbon Offset Shipper and Carbon Free Shipper. Clients can use Flexport’s carbon calculator to understand their CO2 emissions, and this data is available for each shipment when they receive the quote, throughout the shipment process, and in free reporting/analytical tools.

Implying its vision that all people should seamlessly connect to conduct trade, without regard for physical borders, boundaries, or political agendas, Flexport is building the first Operating System for Global Trade, a strategic operating model that combines technology and analytics, logistics infrastructure, and hands-on supply chain expertise. Flexport’s integration of software-based communication, realtime shipment tracking, and customs brokerage services attract clients and investors. Flexport’s investors include corporate venture arms like Google Ventures and Bloomberg Beta, prominent venture capital firms including First Round Capital and Founders Fund, well-known accelerator Y Combinator, and famous individual investors including Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale and Russian founder of DST Global Yuri Milner. With $201.6M in funding, Flexport has expanded to approximately 500 employees and has a presence in cities like New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, and Shenzen, outside of its headquarters in San Francisco. Additionally, the startup has amassed approximately 1,800 customers, including prominent direct-to-consumer and e-commerce startups such as Casper, The Honest Company, Allbirds, Warby Parker, as well as incumbent brands like Bridgestone.

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San Francisco, CA

Ryan Petersen, Founder and CEO

Flexport is a licensed customs brokerage and freight forwarder built around a modern web application. Its freight service includes an online dashboard for businesses to easily understand, purchase, manage, and track the services required for global trade. Its team of logistics experts lets focus on core business by ensuring goods arrive at fulfillment/distribution centers on time and at the lowest cost. Flexport's mission is to fix the user experience in global trade and bring the world free trade through technology. The company was founded in 2013 and is based in San Francisco, California