Ryan Petersen - Where There Is Mystery, There Is Margin – [Founder’s Field Guide, EP. 22]
My guest today is Ryan Petersen, founder and CEO of Flexport. Flexport is a technology platform for global trade. In this conversation, Ryan takes us through the fragmented world of international freight shipping, and we dive deep into the history and inefficiencies of the system. We also cover how shipping containers were standardized, how new protocols get adopted internationally, and the challenges of doing business in the “no man's land” of international waters. Ryan is the type of entrepreneur I enjoy talking to most: he has incredible domain knowledge, high energy and is tackling an enormous global problem. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Ryan Petersen.
For the full show notes, transcript, and links to mentioned content, check out the episode page here.
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[00:03:24] - [First question] - Overview of what Flexport does
[00:04:49] - His introduction into the world of shipping
[00:06:49] - Difference between parcel and freight
[00:08:53] - Market cap of the overall shipping industry
[00:09:24] - Fragmentation of shipping and what Flexport is solving for
[00:12:52] - Worst parts of the shipping world
[00:15:34] - Improving the tech behind the shipping container
[00:19:06] - Why the shipping container changed the world
[00:19:07] - The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger
[00:21:27] - Teams and outsider perspectives in solving problems
[00:22:34] - How their business could make shipping more efficient and reduce costs
[00:25:24] - Where the margins and profits are made in shipping
[00:25:49] - Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger
[00:27:11] - The finance side of shipping
[00:28:56] - Maritime law and the ocean
[00:30:57] - How much is left in the digitization of shipping
[00:32:48] - The perfect state of shipping using Flexport
[00:38:19] - Investing in hard assets to expand the business
[00:41:03] - Lessons about building a business and global coordination
[00:43:15] - Multidisciplinary thinking among their team
[00:44:04] - Global supply chain issues in light of Covid and ocean policing
[00:44:15] - Peter Zeihan Podcast Episode
[00:47:59] - Testing out demand in the beginning
[00:50:28] - The process of testing out new ideas and killing off losers
[00:52:33] - Important lessons/themes for founders
[00:54:51] - Hardest learned lesson, fundraising
[00:58:06] - Other opportunities in shipping
[00:59:47] - Lessons for creating a new standard
[01:02:22] - Using their standardization to improve global relief work
[01:04:40] - Creating synchronicity in a company
[01:07:09] - What he’s excited about for the future
[01:07:53] - Kindest thing anyone has done for him