Founders Fund confirmed the move to TechCrunch, providing the following statement from General Partner Trae Stephens: “We’ve always struggled to define the quintessential Founders Fund founder. Clearly, it’s Ryan. We’re thrilled to welcome him to the team.”
I have joined Founders Fund. If you are someone who’s out to get revenge after having been wronged by a previous employer or investor, a French technical founder who fled socialism to build your company in America, or a Christ-like figure of any kind, please get in touch.
Petersen also told TechCrunch via email: “I never thought about becoming a VC. When I moved to the chairman role a dozen or so VC firms reached out to me, but I didn’t entertain any of them besides Founders Fund. They are super aligned with me both in my desire to continue to support Flexport with as much of my energy as I can and with their overall philosophy of backing founders all the way. The team here changed the course of VC history by upending the previous model where VCs would seek to replace the founder with a more seasoned CEO. Founders Fund doesn’t get enough credit for their role in changing the culture of the wider VC world. I’m excited to work with our portfolio founders, both new and existing, to help them build and run generational companies.”
Petersen founded Flexport, a logistics startup that raised $2.4 billion in funding since its 2013 inception, according to Crunchbase. Founders Fund was an early investor in the company, which last raised in February of 2022 — a $935 million Series E co-led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and MSD Partners that valued the company at $8 billion. Founders Fund participated in that round as well.
The new role won’t be a huge leap for Petersen considering that over the years, he has backed as an angel investor over 100 startups, such as Rippling, Mercury, Faire, Eight Sleep, Carta and Pulley. He will be based in San Francisco and invest as a “generalist” for Founders Fund.
He wrote via email: “I’m interested in innovative companies regardless of their stage or industry.”
Petersen and his brother, David, came up with the idea for Flexport in 2008 when they were running ImportGenius.com. Petersen then went through Y Combinator in the Winter 2013 batch. He transitioned into the role of executive chairman on March 1.
Over the years, Flexport was hailed for being able to grow so successfully despite operating in a decidedly unsexy industry. TechCrunch former reporter Josh Constine wrote this feature about how Petersen and the company were stepping up in the war against COVID. Using freight software it built, the full-service air, rail truck and ocean freight forwarder doubled revenue to $3.3 billion in 2021, moving almost $19 billion in gross merchandise through its platform. And Petersen told the American Journal of Transportation in March that Flexport’s estimated 2022 revenue was $5 billion.
Last month, TechCrunch reported on Kaitlyn Glancy, who had spent more than eight years with Flexport — the last four of them as the outfit’s vice president of North America — announcing that she had joined the world of VC as the newest partner at the venture firm Eclipse.
Reporter’s note: This story was updated post-publication to include comments from Petersen and revised figures of the number of companies he has invested in.