Freight Startup Flexport Hits $3.2 Billion Valuation After $1 Billion Investment Led By SoftBank
His startup operates its own 747 aircraft and employs 1,066 people across 11 offices and four warehouses. He’s tackling a market he calls “as ancient as mankind.” So when Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen decided to raise venture capital to pour more rocket fuel on his freight-forwarding company’s growth, it’s no surprise he turned to the fund best-known in Silicon Valley for writing massive checks: SoftBank.
Flexport, a software-focused freight forwarder that helps businesses transport their goods to their point of sale, announced a $1 billion funding round led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund on Thursday, with existing investors Founders Fund, DST Global, Cherubic Ventures, Susa Ventures and SF Express all participating. The investment, an all-primary transaction (meaning early investors weren’t selling their shares), values the San Francisco-based company at $3.2 billion, according to a source with knowledge of its terms.
As part of the capital injection, Vision Fund managing partner Michael Ronen will join Flexport’s board and director Ed Shrager comes on as a board observer. Petersen – who retains majority control of the company – will also appoint an independent board member to join Founders Fund’s Trae Stephens.
The investment comes as Flexport continues to grow its business at a clip atypical for startups at its scale. It brought in revenue of $441 million for 2018, a previously unreported total that represents annual growth of 95%.
SoftBank’s big bet on Flexport caps a two-year off-and-on courtship that heated up after Petersen read SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son’s 300-year plan unveiled in 2017. Both founders shared an ambition to use technology to connect people through an “information revolution,” Petersen says. And both speak in sweeping time horizons that can sound prophetic — or hubristic. “The audacity to have a 300 year vision, it just resonated with me,” says Petersen, who says one of the company’s core values is to “play the long game.” “We are an ancient industry; global trade is as ancient as mankind. All great industries are based on trade – and civilizations fall apart when they turn to plunder. We want to advance trade forward for the next few hundred years.”