The logistics company that wants to make cross-border trade easier for everyone also appears to be bullish on decentralized currency’s future role in the global economy. Flexport, which just last month raised $935 million in a funding round that now values the freight forwarder at $8 billion, holds Bitcoin on its balance sheet, outspoken founder and CEO Ryan Petersen wrote on Twitter.
When asked on the social network what percentage of Flexport’s $1.6 billion balance sheet was in Bitcoin, Petersen responded, “We don’t disclose that, but it’s not zero.”
Petersen’s comment came at the end of a thread in which he shared some supply chain implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which focused on the reported destruction of the Antonov An-225, the largest cargo airplane in the world, in an airfield near Kyiv.
“Never a dull moment in our industry,” Petersen said. “Flexport is fortunate to have over $1.6 billion in net assets on our balance sheet to allow us to continue to play offense while protecting the interests of our customers, employees and shareholders through the volatility, uncertainty and chaos.”
Flexport has already championed Bitcoin in other ways. The San Francisco-based company lists the original Bitcoin white paper penned by the cryptocurrency’s creator, the unidentified pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, for download on its website.
Cryptocurrency in general might not be a topic that would traditionally be associated with supply chains, which today are still often critiqued for relying on outdated technologies. If anything, the type of blockchain these currencies have been built on are more commonly associated with recent traceability initiatives geared toward understanding the origin of raw materials and finished products.
But in the context of Flexport, a company doing everything in its power to digitize processes across ocean, air, truck and rail, the investment in Bitcoin itself might be less surprising.
As part of its goals to simplify global trade, Flexport works to move legacy approaches to shipping and customs management to cloud-based operations. Its data platform is built to analyze costs, container efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions in an era when inflation is at record highs and climate concerns run rampant. The platform is also designed to streamline communication between the various parties involved in the shipping process, and also allows for cargo owners to track their shipments in real time.
With the global supply chain crisis forcing the industry to seek answers to alleviate port congestion and rising shipping rates, Petersen himself has become a de facto public face of those who feel they can deliver solutions.
He gained widespread attention in an Oct. 22 Twitter thread outlining a five-step plan to “overwhelm” supply chain bottlenecks and create yard space at West Coast ports, before making an appearance on the TV news program “60 Minutes” the next month where he referred to the backlogs as “as bad as it’s ever been.”
Petersen spoke at the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show to kick off 2022, critiquing both the U.S. federal government and the West Coast port operators for their handling of the backups, especially as it relates to aging infrastructure and misleading metrics. And in February, he and Flexport were the subjects of a Forbes cover story titled, “Can This Guy Fix the Supply Chain Mess?”
Reflecting both Petersen’s confidence and Flexport’s willingness to invest in cryptocurrency, the company isn’t afraid bet on newer technologies as it seeks to build more flexible and resilient supply chains.
In November, Flexport partnered with small business lender On Deck to develop an accelerator program called ODX Flexport that wants to invest in 60 to 80 startups over the next two years.
The freight forwarder is also one of several businesses that have pre-ordered planes from autonomous aircraft manufacturer Natilus Inc., signing a letter of intent for two 100-ton payload Natilus aircraft, with an option for a third.