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Flexport CEO expresses some remorse in taking cash from Peter Thiel

TechCrunch TechCrunch 28/06/2016 Megan Rose Dickey

Remember when we found out billionaire investor Peter Thiel is in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump? At TechCrunch Shanghai 2016, Flexport CEO Ryan Peterson, who has received significant funding from Thiel, candidly spoke about his discomfort around Thiel’s backing of Trump.

“I don’t know what’s going on there,” Peterson told me on stage in regard to Thiel supporting Trump. “A big part of me is hoping at the last minute he’s going to change his vote and publicly say it, and maybe disrupt [Trump’s] campaign.”

Flexport, a freight forwarding service and software company that offers an operating system for global trade, raised a $20 million Series A round led by Thiel of Founders Fund last year. Flexport runs analytics for international shipping routes, rates, speeds and customs compliance data. On top of that, Flexport offers physical freight shipping services for its business customers.

On stage, Peterson went as far as to say that if he had known Thiel was going to back Trump, he might not have accepting his funding. Here’s what Peterson said in direct response to my question about whether he would have taken funding from Thiel if he had known he was going to support Trump:

“Probably not, actually,” Peterson said. “Well, it depends on how desperate we were. I don’t think that supporting Donald Trump is an acceptable position, honestly. For our business, it would be disastrous.”

Peterson pointed to Trump’s desire to slap huge tariffs on goods coming out of China. This year, Flexport has moved freight to or from 64 countries for over 700 clients, and a lot of that departure activity comes from China. So, it doesn’t make any sense that Flexport’s lead investor on its most recent funding round would throw his support behind Trump.

“I honestly don’t know what he’s [Trump’s] thinking,” Peterson said. “Maybe he just didn’t know a big part of his campaign where he’s trying to put a 45% tariff on goods from China.”

Other than Thiel, Flexport has raised money from investors like First Round Capital, Felicis Ventures, Y Combinator, Google Ventures and other venture capital firms. To date, Flexport has raised $26.6 million.

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