SoftBank leads investment in US$1bn shipping startup funding round

Flexport, a freight forwarding and customs brokerage startup driving digital transformation in the US$2trn global freight forwarding industry, has announced the close of a $1bn funding round led by Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund.

In a blog post on the Flexport website, CEO Ryan Peterson said the Vision Fund was joined by existing investors DST Global, SF Express, Founders Fund, Cherubic Ventures, and Susa Ventures.

Peterson noted the firm’s successes in 2018, including a doubling of its top-line revenue to almost $500mn, a jump in its workforce with 1,000 new members of staff, and an expansion strategy that has given rise to 11 offices and warehouses worldwide.

According to CNBC, the investment marks one of the Vision Fund’s largest yet in a tech startup.

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Michael Ronen, a Managing Partner at SoftBank, will take a place on Flexport’s board.

Ronen, speaking to CNBC, noted the company’s innovative strategy in what is otherwise a “pretty boring space”, and commented on the moves of competitor Amazon as it invests heavily in its own logistics services.

“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,” Ronen told CNBC. “[The investment] is not so much about going against Amazon, but supporting everyone else that needs a better solution and needs some scale.”

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