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Florida Atlantic: The New Face of E-commerce

FAU Alumnus Builds Success with Shipping Company

Czech Republic native Jan Bednar ’14 moved to the U.S. at age 17 to learn English and pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He wasn’t sure what kind of company he would launch until family, friends and his experiences at FAU pointed him in the right direction.

Bednar was fielding requests from family and friends back home for products that were either too expensive or not available in the Czech Republic. Realizing the demand for American products overseas could make for a profitable venture, he started his own business with guidance from FAU faculty and other mentors.

“Companies wouldn’t send to an overseas address, so I would buy and ship the items from my address,” said Bednar, founder and CEO of ShipMonk, a tech-enabled fulfillment center that helps e-commerce companies ship orders internationally.

As a college student with a fledgling international packaging service, which he originally named BedaBox, Bednar said he recognized his business venture needed help to grow. He took advantage of FAU’s resources for start-up companies, including entering — and ultimately winning — the Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Business. The competition is designed to fuel the innovation needed to create new venture opportunities in the ever-changing global marketplace.

One of the benefits of winning the competition was securing a spot in the venture class program at FAU Tech Runway®, a hub that helps incubate startups and accelerate technology development. Tech Runway’s 28,000-squarefoot collaborative workspace provides entrepreneurs with opportunities to grow, train, mentor, fund and scale their companies from concept through early-revenue stage.

“I was part of Tech Runway’s first group of companies to go through the program,” Bednar said. “Not only did I have a team of five mentors who helped with any issues that came up, I also had free workspace.

“When you have a lot of inventory and products like I did, that space was invaluable,” Bednar said. “It was like being in your parents’ garage – safe, comfortable and rent free.”

By 2016, BedaBox evolved into ShipMonk and the company moved to a larger facility. Through its custom application programming interface integrations, ShipMonk’s software directly syncs with a company’s online shopping cart to automatically import orders. After that, ShipMonk picks, packs and ships each order. The company’s process is customizable and scalable, making it possible to get the same service for every order. Today, ShipMonk has grown to 2,300 employees stationed at various locations around the U.S. and Europe, with about 400 based at its headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. Its revenue is more than $300 million. Even though the company has experienced phenomenal growth, Bednar said he has no plans to move.

“Keeping the core team in place is important, and the way to do that is to stay headquartered in South Florida,” he said.

His success is turning heads in the business world. In 2018, Bednar was named to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list for retail and e-commerce, and ShipMonk was named to the Inc. “500 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America” for the last four years.

From a concept that started in an FAU residence hall room to a company that now processes 2 million orders in an average month, Bednar found a solution for e-commerce companies to manage their supply chains and ship orders to customers.

“I had the idea,” he said. “FAU gave me the confidence to move forward with it.”

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Florida Atlantic Magazine

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