With new show­case HQ, uShip gets set for growth

Ship­ping firm now has all staff un­der one roof — and it’s time for lunch.

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

Af­ter years of work­ing in two down­town of­fices, em­ploy­ees of Austin-based uShip are fi­nally un­der the same roof in a sleek new head­quar­ters on East River­side Drive.

And the tim­ing is right: The move comes as the 220-per­son com­pany, which runs an on­line ship­ping marketplace, shifts into growth mode.

It took two years to con­vert a for­mer trade school site at 205 E. River­side Drive into a three­story, 45,000-square-foot show­case. The re­sult is a mod­ern, open col­lab­o­ra­tive work­place that in­cor­po­rates both new and re­pur­posed ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments with ex­posed fram­ing and nat­u­ral light.

“The big thing was to move from mul­ti­ple of­fices to one place — that’s what we have been look­ing for­ward to,” said uShip CEO Mike Wil­liams. “Be­ing un­der one roof drives col­lab­o­ra­tion, and we’re feel­ing it al­ready.”

The head­quar­ters in­cludes a gourmet kitchen and din­ing area, where the com­pany has con­tin­ued its tra­di­tion of serv­ing daily lunch, cooked by com­pany

chefs. Break­fast is served on Fri­days.

Shower fa­cil­i­ties, locker rooms and stor­age ar­eas for bi­cy­cles are in­cluded. Although there’s enough park­ing for work­ers, uShip of­fers a green credit — $50 per pay­check, or $100 a month — to em­ploy­ees who take pub­lic trans­porta­tion, walk or bike to work.

Dogs are wel­come at the new head­quar­ters, and 15 to 20 em­ploy­ees reg­u­larly bring them to work, com­pany lead­ers say.

Out­door decks and an out­door seat­ing area of­fer a view of East Bouldin Creek, while a game area pro­vides a shuf­fle­board ta­ble, a ping­pong ta­ble, TVs and ar­cade games.

Founded in 2003, uShip runs an on­line ship­ping marketplace that matches cus­tomers who need to move un­usu­ally big items with thou­sands of trans­port com­pa­nies that can take the loads.

Over the past few years, uShip has moved into the $300 bil­lion truck­load freight mar­ket. The com­pany also launched uShip PRO, which lets busi­ness ship­pers and freight bro­kers build their own car­rier net­works and man­age and au­to­mate their ship­ping op­er­a­tions.

In February, uShip raised $25 mil­lion from lo­gis­tics gi­ant DB Schenker for a new ex­pan­sion push. (The com­pany has raised a total of $50 mil­lion from in­vestors in­clud­ing Bench­mark Cap­i­tal and Kleiner Perkins.)

The com­pany is us­ing the new money to ac­cel­er­ate de­vel­op­ment of its lo­gis­tics soft­ware plat­form for busi­ness seg­ments in­clud­ing high-vol­ume en­ter­prise ship­pers and small and mid­size busi­nesses.

The new head­quar­ters con­sol­i­dates work­ers from its for­mer head­quar­ters at Third and Bra­zos streets and ad­di­tional space at Third Street and Congress Av­enue. And it pro­vides space for the com­pany’s next wave of growth, which in­clude plans to dou­ble its work­force over the next few years.

Wil­liams said he ex­pects that the perks of­fered by uShip will help the com­pany re­cruit new work­ers. But the com­mu­nal meals, col­lab­o­ra­tive seat­ing ar­eas and game room also serve an­other pur­pose, he said.

“When a com­pany gets to be 220 peo­ple, it’s easy to get iso­lated,” he said. “The lunch breaks down that wall of iso­la­tion, and so do the spa­ces that en­cour­age col­lab­o­ra­tion. There’s no bet­ter way for our ex­ec­u­tive team to stay con­nected than to sit down with ev­ery­one for lunch. It keeps us all con­nected.”

The move from the heart of down­town to south of Lady Bird Lake has brought some un­ex­pected perks, said In­grid McLain, a six-year uShip em­ployee and man­ager of cus­tomer suc­cess.

“I was a lit­tle ner­vous about not be­ing down­town, but it’s nice to ex­plore an­other part of the city, and to be around so much green space,” McLain said. “I can bike to work, and with the locker room I can work out in the morn­ing and get then get ready. But the best part is the col­lab­o­ra­tive space for ev­ery­one to meet and chat. Af­ter be­ing in sep­a­rate build­ings, it’s great to meet new em­ploy­ees and talk face to face.”

TAMIR KALIFA / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Bobby Lish plays with his dog, Grady, at the new uShip head­quar­ters on East River­side Drive. About 15 to 20 of uShip’s 220 work­ers bring their dogs to work each day at the new 45,000-square-foot of­fice, which con­sol­i­dates two pre­vi­ous work­ing spa­ces down­town.

TAMIR KALIFA / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Brian Rud­nick plays an ar­cade game Tues­day at the new uShip head­quar­ters. Man­age­ment says perks like this keep work­ers con­nected.

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