By Laura Lorek, Publisher, Silicon Hills News / Heather Hoover, executive vice president of operations at uShip, joined the company in 2005, a year after its founding.
At the time, uShip, the online shipping marketplace and freight automation software provider, didn’t have a formal office.
Nick Parker, chief technology officer at uShip, and the founders worked out of the business center of his apartment building.
They held company meetings at coffee shops around Austin.
“We’ve upgraded just a little,” Hoover said.
On Tuesday, uShip unveiled its new bright, open and inviting corporate headquarters at 205 E. Riverside Drive in a 45,000 square foot building, which dates to 1930 and was formerly an automotive trade and technical school.
A giant 15-foot-tall stool made the move to uShip’s new headquarters on Riverside Drive from its old office at Third and Brazos downtown. It was left by McGarrah Jessee
Advertising company, the old occupants of the building.
The unusual office décor is emblematic of the company, which prides itself on shipping everything from defunct Disneyland ride cars, llamas, horses, boats, cars, furniture and more, in the U.S. and 13 countries worldwide. uShip has shipped all kinds of strange items on its platform, Parker said. Many of the unusual items have been featured on Shipping Wars, a reality TV series that featured uShip independent truck drivers on the A&E Channel, he said.
Unique items included “A 90-pound life-sized evil doll,” Parker said. And giant replicas of the Simpson TV characters, Hoover said.
To date, the company has more than five million consumer shippers, 500,000 business shippers and 8.3 million shipment listings. It handles 15,000 bids per day by thousands of providers and has new listings on its platform every 15 seconds.
uShip’s top partners include eBay, Ritchie Bros. and DB Schenker, one of the world’s largest logistics companies owned by Deutsche Bahn AG. Last summer, the two companies struck a five year agreement to create Drive4Schenker, an online trucking platform using uShip’s software and technology.
uShip’s three-story building has an open floor plan on the first floor with lots of white boards and large smart TVs on the walls, couches and gathering areas. It also has a row of conference room on one side designed to look like shipping containers and wooden accent walls kind of like a shipping crate.
The architectural firm of Chioco Designs left the industrial feel of the building with exposed duct work on the high ceilings, large open areas and concrete floors.
The first floor also has a large professional kitchen. Chef Ella Adams and Sous Chef Denise Dawson, both French-trained pastry chefs, prepare and serve lunch to uShip’s 220 employees Monday through Thursday and breakfast on Friday.
During the early evening tour on Tuesday, employees were participating in a Yoga class just outside the kitchen. uShip’s offices also feature bike racks, showers, and dressing areas. Many employees bike to work. They are provided with a $50 bonus every paycheck for taking alternative transportation like biking, walking or taking the bus.
The first floor also has offices for engineers and other employees and a game room with arcade games, foosball, ping pong and more.
The backside of the property features an outdoor patio that backs up to the E. Bouldin Creek greenbelt with giant Cottonwood, Elm and Hackberry Trees providing shade. The outdoor area has tables with umbrellas. It also has greenspace for the 30 plus dogs of uShip to run around.
On the second floor, the attic with exposed wooden beams has been converted into office space for the commercial sales team.
The third floor features a view of the Austin skyline. It has more open space with tables and stools and houses customer operations and marketing. They’ve also got room for expansion on the third floor. The company is hiring 15 people right now, primarily developers, quality assurance, product management and member support. The building has the capacity for 400 employees.
“We’re actively recruiting,” said Mike Williams, CEO of uShip.
“We have some really ambitious goals,” Williams said. “We’re working on innovative technology. The products we get to work on and deliver are cutting edge mobile technology for consumers and businesses, innovative payment technologies because that is always changing and adapting. And believe it or not, logistics is a mainstream business topic these days. There’s so much opportunity there for innovation and digitization.”
uShip employees like the new space, Williams said.
“It’s an office that is easy to get to no matter where you live around town,” “But it’s also an office that once you are here, you really don’t need to go anywhere. You’ve got lunch. You’ve got space like this to get fresh air and talk to a coworker. It helps breed creativity.”
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