Solana Beach loses booming, Google-backed tech startup Flock Freight to Encinitas

The team at Flock Freight's office in Solana Beach.
(Courtesy of Flock Freight)

After raising $113 million, Flock Freight moves its beachside headquarters


Flock Freight, one of San Diego’s hottest tech startups, is moving its headquarters from Solana Beach to Encinitas, citing unbearably slow action on a permit request that would allow it to expand.

The startup is quickly becoming well-known in San Diego County thanks to its recent $113 million venture cap deal led by SoftBank (which manages the largest tech fund on the planet).

Flock Freight’s algorithms help companies move products more efficiently, combining small shipments into a shared truckload (like a carpool for freight).

The company is booming faster than even CEO Oren Zaslansky was expecting, adding 48 staffers during the first quarter, bringing its headcount to roughly 200. They plan to add 200 more this year.

“We’ve already grown 70 percent since we got a term sheet from Softbank — and we’ve not spent any of their money yet,” Zaslansky said.

Flock Freight’s current headquarters is a large industrial-looking building on Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach, just steps from the sand and sea. It’s in an area better known for retail and restaurants than corporate buildings. And Flock Freight liked it that way.

“We didn’t want to move,” Zaslansky said.

But the 8,200-square-foot space could no longer contain the startup, so Flock Freight attempted to expand into the lower level of the building — a retail spot that’s been vacant for over a year. Since this was zoned for retail, it would require a special permit from the City of Solana Beach, which Flock Freight applied for.

The city’s officials said they moved faster than typical, but the process still lasted for several months — partly due to additional information needed for Flock Freight’s permit request, such as the startup’s plan for parking.

Greg Wade, city manager, said he’d also heard plenty of opposition to Flock Freight’s expansion. Had the permit request made it to the city council, it may not have gone in the startup’s favor.

“We had members of the Cedros real estate community that were concerned about that building being a corporate office,” Wade said, noting that the street is zoned to encourage vibrant retail, restaurants and a walkable atmosphere.

So instead, Flock Freight is moving its headquarters to a 20,000 square-foot spot in Encinitas. The office is the old Nixon building with a funky barn-like exterior located at 701 S. Coast Highway. This puts the staff still just steps from the ocean, restaurants and other walkable spots.

With the company’s mass recruiting, Zaslansky said it’s important to him to keep a location his staff — which he calls “flockers” — will like.

“We want a recruiting tool and a retention tool, and we want to be part of a really vibrant community, not in an office park,” Zaslansky said.

Although many companies plan to stay remote as the pandemic abates, Flock Freight has every intention of returning full force to office life. The lease on the new Encinitas building is signed and Flock Freight now plans to make some improvements before moving in this fall.

— Brittany Meiling is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune