Flexport looking to grow its footprint

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Flexport is evolving fast and the rapidly growing freight forwarder has no plans to slow down.

2017 has been quite a year and in August the US-based forwarder opened its first warehouses in Hong Kong (HK) and Los Angeles (LAX).

Speaking at TIACA’s Executive Summit in Miami on 18 October, Flexport’s global head of airfreight, Neel Jones Shah (pictured) says in 2018 it will open more offices, adding to the two in China, four in the US and one in Europe.

“We have a pretty aggressive hiring plan and will continue to open more offices in 2018. We will target a couple in Asia, one in North America and possibly one or two in Europe.

“It will be responsible growth and we are not just going to open offices for the sake of it,” says Shah.

The former chief cargo officer at Delta Cargo says operations at warehouses opened in HK and LAX are going well.

Shah explains: “In HK we have already run out of space and reached capacity and last week we arranged to double our footprint, which we move into tomorrow (Friday, 19 October). Our business is growing and we are filling up the footprint so that is an exciting problem to have.

“Our LAX facility is doing quite well, and bringing in a lot of ocean freight. It is a little too far from the airport for airfreight, but we will look at having a separate airfreight facility in LAX .”

More warehouses are on the agenda and Shah says it will likely open a couple more in 2018, although he is not sure where they will be and it will depend on operating and handling restrictions.

He adds: “But where we need our own facilities we are definitely going to make investment in 2018, but I don’t know if that will be Chicago, Atlanta, or San Francisco or where, but I suspect we will open a few in the US.”

Shah believes Flexport has been aided by the strong market, which is clearly helping the growth and the business is shaping up nicely.

He says: “Over the past few weeks we have closed Series C fundraising and are very fortunate it only took a few weeks. We raised another $110 million, which brings our total funding to $204 million since we started, which is a pretty serious number and I think it is the most amount of money ever invested in this kind of start-up in the industry anywhere in the world.

“We are very pleased with where we are at right now and pleased with the sort of investors we have – we brought some new investors in such as Wells Fargo, who very much believe in what we are trying to do.”

People are an essential component of Flexport’s ethos and Shah says it is pleased with the work it is doing in hiring, as it is very challenging getting the kind of people that share the Flexport philosophy and passion.

“We have been able to grow our team to well over 500 people – we started the year with about 150 people. We will probably be north of 550 by the end of the year,” he says.

Shah adds: “We have a very specific culture we want to maintain as are focused on providing a unique user experience. A lot has to do with the software, but it is also the people and how they deliver service and the consistency they deliver it. We now have the delivery mechanism to continue rapid growth into 2018.”

Shah says on the procurement side, it is focused on building a platform from a delivery perspective the sales team can sell.

He adds you have to have the capacity, airline contracts, warehouse capacity and trucking partners in place to execute.

“We are focused on doing that and growing at the same pace as the last few years and will face the challenges as they come. I am looking forward to 2018,” Shah concludes.