Say Hello to FLEXE, the Airbnb of Warehousing

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All too often, there are small businesses that need extra storage space, but can barely afford the rent of an annual lease. Meanwhile, seasonal companies with large warehouses have more empty floor space than they know what to do with. Seattle-based logistics start-up FLEXE is looking to bridge those missed connections.

Though the company’s been in and out of the news spotlight since 2013, FLEXE has been making quite a few waves lately. Most notably, their latest round of fundraising concluded a few weeks ago, securing an additional $14.25 million bringing the start-up’s total investment to roughly $20 million. With tech trends favoring flexibility, speed, and the ability to scale on-demand, FLEXE’s co-founder and CEO Karl Siebrecht is closing a logistics gap that’s been the bane of many a retailer since time immemorial.

Similar to services like Airbnb that allows homeowners to rent out their spare bedrooms, FLEXE provides a medium for exchange between retailers looking for short-term storage space and others whose warehouses sit mostly empty. As Fortune put it last October in a feature detailing the company: “

[Siebrecht] wants FLEXE to transform how companies think about warehousing as fundamentally as Amazon Web Services changed thinking about data, shifting the model from one of big fixed costs to services that can be quickly turned on and scaled as needed.”

Image source: FLEXE (via Supply Chain News)

Aside from averting storage crises with grace and speed (the service’s official site boasts that “space can be sourced and contracted in days”), having on-demand storage comes with a few perks. For instance, if you’re the one providing the space, you stand to make a few extra bucks filling pallet positions otherwise left empty. If you’re looking for space, it doesn’t just have to be when you’ve run out of room back at base either.

Let’s say as your brand has grown, demand has picked up for your product in a growing market hours away, but you don’t have a warehouse nearby to easily ship to potential new buyers from. Now with FLEXE, you can set up temporary distribution areas without nearly as much capital investment as contracting years-long leases or buying a building outright. Much like the pop-up retailing trend that let’s stores move their fronts where the demand is, it’s only natural that pop-up warehousing follows soon after.

In order to keep track of everything, all of FLEXE’s programs are managed through a cloud-based platform. Through the glory of the cloud, businesses and storage facilities can network nationwide as well as grant users access to functions like pallet searching and tracking, billion, contract management, terms of service, and insurance among others.

At present, FLEXE is partnered with over 200 warehouses (equaling about 10 million square feet of floor space) across the United States and Canada. While not all states and provinces have access to the on-demand storage system quite yet, the site’s storage space finder lets you search for warehouses nearest you, depending on how many pallets you need tucked away.

If you’re in a place where FLEXE hasn’t got to yet, don’t worry. Better yet, if you’ve got a warehouse, perhaps now’s the opportunity you’ve been looking for to put that extra space to use. In this world increasingly tied together with technology, the outlook for FLEXE and other services like it is very bright.

“In the last 10 to 15 years, chiefly due to the rise of ecommerce, supply chains have turned into growth weapons,” Siebrecht said in an interview with the Seattle Times. “The faster you can deliver goods to consumers, the more competitive you can be.” That in mind, if not in the business of competing to deliver goods to consumers, the future then rests with those who provide the very tools for those businesses to compete.

With no shortage of storage shortages, it looks like FLEXE is going to be a very useful tool indeed.

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