Ven­ture cap­i­tal:

$18 mil­lion in­vest­ment al­lows firm to ex­pand global op­er­a­tions.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Lori Hawkins lhawkins@states­man.com

A Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal firm is mak­ing an $18 mil­lion bet on u Ship Inc., an Austin com­pany that hosts on­line auc­tions for ship­ping ser­vices.

A prom­i­nent Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal firm is mak­ing an $18 mil­lion bet on u Ship Inc., a fast-grow­ing Austin com­pany that hosts on­line auc­tions for ship­ping ser­vices.

The in­vest­ment by Kleiner Perkins Cau­field & By­ers will al­low u Ship to ex­pand its global op­er­a­tions and ac­cel­er­ate prod­uct devel­op­ment, said Matt Chasen, u Ship co­founder and CEO.

The deal caps off a big year for u Ship, which is fea­tured in the A&E re­al­ity TV show Ship­ping Wars. The show, which de­buted in Jan­uary, fol­lows in­de­pen­dent truck­ers who bid to trans­port loads found on uShip.com.

Mean­while, the com­pany dou­bled its work­force to 120 em­ploy­ees in 2012, and plans to dou­ble again over the next 18 to 24 months. UShip doesn’t dis­close fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion, but Chasen said rev­enue is up 75 per­cent this year over last.

Founded in 2003, u Ship runs an on­line ship­ping mar­ket­place that matches cus­tomers who need to move large, un­usu­ally big items – cars, boats, equip­ment, freight – with thou­sands of trans­port com­pa­nies who can take the load.

Con­sumers and busi­nesses post their ship­ment list­ing into u Ship’s auc­tion-style for­mat, sim­i­lar to eBay, or name their price, sim­i­lar to Price­line.

Then, trans­porta­tion ser­vice providers, in­clud­ing truck­ers, movers and bro­kers, bid on the jobs or ac­cept the of­fer price. The ser­vice is free for users, uShip takes a cut of the to­tal ship­ping cost.

Since its found­ing, more than 355,000 trans­porters have reg­is­tered on uShip and placed 10.6 mil­lion bids.

The amount of money spent on ship­ping ser­vices on the site was $100 mil­lion in 2012.

Kleiner Perkins is one of the most well-known tech­nol­ogy ven­ture cap­i­tal firms, and was an early in­vestor in many suc­cesses in­clud­ing Ama­zon, AOL, Google, In­tuit and Sun Mi­crosys­tems. The firm was one of the first in­vestors in Tivoli Sys­tems, one of Austin’s big­gest soft­ware success sto­ries, but has not been ac­tive here in re­cent years.

Chasen said Kleiner Perkins ap­proached uShip about mak­ing an in­vest­ment.

“They sought us out be­cause they had been look­ing for an in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity in the lo­gis­tics and trans­porta­tion space,” he said. “They saw us as one of the more in­ter­est­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in the space, and of course we were ex­cited about work­ing with them.”

This is the com­pany’s third round of fund­ing. It pre­vi­ously raised $10 mil­lion from Bench­mark Cap­i­tal and DAG Ven­tures, both of Sil­i­con Val­ley.

Chasen founded uShip with fel­low Univer­sity of Texas busi­ness stu­dents Mickey Mill­sap and Jay Man­ickam. They saw an op­por­tu­nity to use the In­ter­net to make the ship­ping process more ef­fi­cient, par­tic­u­larly by al­low­ing truck­ers with par­tially empty trucks to pick up ex­tra loads by bid­ding for the busi­ness.

The fund­ing will let the com­pany, which has fo­cused on the con­sumer mar­ket, to make a push into the $300 bil­lion truck­load freight mar­ket. Next year it will launch uShip PRO, which lets busi­ness ship­pers and freight bro­kers build their own car­rier net­works and man­age and au­to­mate their ship­ping op­er­a­tions.

In ad­di­tion, the com­pany, which has op­er­a­tions in 16 coun­tries, will con­tinue to ex­pand in Latin Amer­ica and Europe, Chasen said.

Hir­ing also will be a pri­or­ity in 2013, he said. The com­pany, whose head­quar­ters is down­town at Third and Bra­zos streets, is hir­ing soft­ware engi­neers and mo­bile de­vel­op­ers as well sup­port staff.

“Find­ing the right folks is go­ing to be our most crit­i­cal chal­lenge, but we’ve had some success re­cruit­ing out of the Bay Area and other tech cen­ters,” Chasen said. “While it’s much more com­pet­i­tive in the Bay Area, folks in en­try-level and mid-level soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing po­si­tions can really live much bet­ter in Austin.”

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