Flexport is a digitally enabled freight forwarding platform that offers logistics services to other businesses.
The company, which is headquartered in San Francisco, California, was founded in 2013 by Ryan Petersen.
Flexport is what people in the industry refer to as a freight forwarder. Most consumers have their orders delivered by postage companies such as DHL or UPS.
However, the shipment of larger orders (normally above 150kg) often entails much greater complexity and involves tasks such as customs clearing, warehouse storage, and more. Other companies, which are normally the customers of freight forwarders, often don’t have the resources and knowledge to manage those complex supply chain processes – especially for cross-continental shipments.
As a result, they turn to freight forwarders to navigate those complexities. Flexport takes this up a notch by providing its 10,000+ customers, such as SONOS or Gerber, with a software platform that tracks the shipment of goods, allows you to communicate with suppliers and shippers, and so much more.
The world’s largest freight forwarders own many of the trucks, warehouses, and so forth used during the shipment. Flexport, on the other hand, only provides the software while sourcing out the actual physical shipment to local partners.
Nevertheless, Flexport offers any form of shipment imaginable, whether it is to be conducted via air, land (trucks or trains), and sea. The company, furthermore, allows customers to manage their customs clearance and even helps them to become carbon neutral.
Flexport has since expanded into a variety of associated businesses. For example, customers can ensure their valuable cargo via Flexport Insurance or apply for trade financing. They can also claim duty refunds and even hire a Flexport consultant to help them with issues around trade (e.g., compliance assessments or Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) analysis).
Digitizing the traditionally analog supply chain industry has translated into big business for Flexport as well. In 2021, the firm generated USD 3.3 billion in revenue. Flexport itself makes money from the shipment of goods, interest on its trade financing loans, and more.
Furthermore, it has raised USD 2.2 billion in funding from world-class investors such as Andreessen Horowitz who value the business at USD 8.1 billion.
Over 3,000 people are currently employed by Flexport, which operates over 30 offices in cities such as Los Angeles or Amsterdam.
The methodology with which competitors of Flexport are ranked is based on publicly available data. Information such as the revenue as well as the number of customers, employees, and offices will all be considered.
Although most of Flexport’s customers are based in the United States, its business is conducted globally. As a result, competitors across the world will be taken into account.
And even though Flexport itself does not own the planes or trucks it uses for its shipments; it is still considered to be a freight forwarder. Consequently, most of the firms on this list provide similar services.
We will, however, exclude competitors from Flexport’s associated business lines such as cargo insurance or trade financing.
It has to be noted that this analysis should not be seen as an endorsement of either service. It is merely a summary of the competition that Flexport currently faces.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 5 competitors of Flexport.
Headquarters: Sandy Springs, Georgia Founder(s): James E. Casey Year Founded: 1907
UPS, which stands for United Parcel Services, is primarily known to facilitate shipments of small parcels for consumers ordering items online. However, it also offers freight forwarding services via its UPS Supply Chain Solutions division.
The division provides many of the same services that Flexport does such as customs brokerage, the ability to order and track shipments (via Flex Global View), storing goods in one of UPS’ 250+ global warehousing facilities, ensuring cargo, applying for trade financing, and more.
All of those services are managed via the firm’s Forwarding Hub, which is the firm’s native software platform. UPS itself employs a whopping 534,000 people, delivers over 25 million daily packages, and generates annual revenue of USD 97.3 billion (2021).
Around USD 17 billion of that revenue can be attributed to the firm’s freight forwarding division. Additionally, a total of 6,500 employees across 400+ offices work for UPS Supply Chain Solutions.
Source: UPS About Section, UPS Supply Chain Solutions
2. Deutsche Post
Headquarters: Bonn, Germany Founder(s): Successor to Deutsche Bundespost Year Founded: 1995
The Deutsche Post AG, which operates under the Deutsche Post DHL Group brand, is another logistics conglomerate. It acquired a controlling stake in DHL, which itself was founded in San Francisco and represents the firm’s freight forwarding division, in the early 2000s.
DHL itself is a combination of the founders (Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn) first letters in their respective last names. A total of 380,000 people work at DHL, which delivers 1,818,000,000 parcels every year.
45,000 of those employees work for its global freight forwarding division, which covers more than 150 countries, counts 250,000+ customers, and is present in around 200 freight terminals.
The overall group, much like the rest of the companies on this list, profited from the supply chain constraints. In 2021, it posted record revenue numbers of EUR 81.7 billion (~ USD 83 billion) on profits of EUR 8 billion.
DHL is also no stranger to digitalization. Not only does it offer a native platform through which customers can book and track shipments but even operates its own developer portal to enable developers to tap into its various APIs. The firm even offers integrations with some heavy hitters including Adobe Commerce, Shopify, or WooCommerce.
Source: Deutsche Post Annual Report, DHL
3. Kuehne + Nagel
Headquarters: Schindellegi, Switzerland Founder(s): August Kühne, Friedrich Nagel Year Founded: 1890
Kuehne + Nagel claims to be the largest sea freight and air freight forwarder worldwide. It operates across 1,300 locations in 106 different countries. A total of 400,000 customers entrust Kuehne + Nagel’s nearly 80,000 employees with their shipments.
The firm is slowly adopting a way of digitally handling customers as well. For example, customers can get instant quotes and track their shipments. A slew of APIs and EDIs, furthermore, enable users to integrate their existing software with Kuehne + Nagel.
This has translated to CHF 36.7 billion (~ USD 37 billion) in revenue that the firm generated throughout 2021. Around 35 percent of that revenue is generated in North America where Kuehne + Nagel has a formidable presence of around 120 offices and 9,000 employees.
Kuehne + Nagel, much like the other firms on this list, also owns and operates its own fleet of trucks. However, air freight, trains, and shipping via sea vessels are normally sourced out to other partners.
Source: Kuehne + Nagel About Section, Kuehne + Nagel Annual Report
Headquarters: Hedehusene, Denmark Founder(s): Leif Tullberg Year Founded: 1976
DSV, short for ‘De Sammensluttede Vognmænd’, was started by Leif Tullberg and nine independent trucking companies. By 1989, DSV finally managed to expand internationally when it acquired two competing export companies called Borup Autotransport A/S and Hammerbro A/S-Bech Trans.
The firm’s integrated supply chain solutions, which for example entail owning the warehouses its goods are stored in, enable customers to book and track their shipments completely online. DSV itself operates in 90+ countries and employs over 75,000 people across 1,500 offices and logistics facilities.
That scale ultimately translated to DKK 182.3 billion (~ USD 24.83 billion) in revenue that DSV generated in 2021, which represented an increase of almost 60 percent.
That same year, DSV also made one of its biggest acquisitions ever when it bought s Global Integrated Logistics business (GIL) for DKK 30 billion, which added another 17,000 employees and DKK 35 billion in revenue.
Source: DSV About Section, DSV Annual Report
Headquarters: Beijing, China Founder(s): Subsidiary of China Merchants Group (CMG) Year Founded: 2002
The China Merchants Group, which is leading the expansion of the country’s Belt and Road Initiative, started Sinotrans as a separate logistics subsidiary in 2002. A year later, it took Sinotrans public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Sinotrans currently employs around 34,000 people that are mostly stationed in its home country. And even though China continues to grapple with its Zero-Covid policy, Sinotrans still managed to grow revenues by close to 50 percent in 2021. The firm made RMB 124.35 billion (~ USD 18.35 billion) that year.
Sinotrans is also no foreigner in modernizing its business. It, for example, became the first Chinese freight forwarder to utilize high-level self-driving technology (L4) to trial in a commercial setting.
Source: Sinotrans Annual Report, Statista