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Mobile commerce startup Via rounds $ 15 million in Series A funding – TechCrunch

Mobile commerce is where it is at, and the increase in investment in so-called conversational commerce startups underscores the opportunity.

Going through, a two-year-old Bay Area-based startup, is among those riding the wave, having identified some trends that are becoming clearer month by month. First, e-commerce sales will be higher this year on mobile phones than on desktop computers (up to 70% by some estimates), people tend to read text messages almost immediately, and consumers are spending more than 30 minutes a day interact with mobile messaging applications.

Via also insists that unlike a growing group of startups that aim to help retailers and others deliver their marketing messages via SMS, there is room for a player to better respond to the many other elements that contribute to a business. happy customer experience, from the delivery of coupon codes to initiate the return process.

Indeed, according to co-founder and CEO Tejas Konduru – a Brigham Young graduate whose parents immigrated to the United States from India and who themselves worked in tech startups – an idea his 50-year-old company people had early on was that despite this, so many of their customers are now using the mobile browser to visit and buy in their stores, many retailers are using website builders like Shopify or BigCommerce to “put everything in mobile, not leaving that enough space for, for example, an image and a “Buy Now” button. Konduru thought there must be some way to take the shopping experience that all of these customers have with brands on their website and bring it to life in a fast and mobile native way.

Via’s solution, he says, is to help these businesses engage with customers on the devices and apps they use most often. “When someone is using Shopify or BigCommerce or one of those platforms,” Konduru explains, “we also connect them to Via, and that basically takes the whole shopping experience and allows [customers] to quickly browse a menu or as in a catalog on, for example, Facebook Messenger. Via will also build as a native iOS Android app by taking a website, cloning it into a native iOS Android app, and then selling the push notification in-app chat layer. Basically, ”he adds,“ whenever someone is shopping over the phone and not using the browser, that’s what Via manages. “

The “message” seems to be getting to the right people. Via, which launched last year, says it now employs 54 full-time people, has 190 brands as clients and has just secured $ 15 million in Series A funding led by Footwork, the new company. venture capital firm co-founded by the former COO of Stitch Fix. Mike Smith and former Shasta Ventures investor Nikhil Basu Trivedi.

Other participants in the round include Peterson Ventures, where Konduru was previously interned; famous founder Josh James of Domo, where Konduru was also interned; and a long list of other notable individual investors, including Ryan Smith of Qualtrics and Lattice co-founder and CEO Jack Altman.

As for how the business bills, it doesn’t charge a monthly or annual fee like traditional SaaS companies do, but charges per interaction, whether it’s SMS, voice minute, voice mail, phone calls, etc. ‘a video or a GIF.

It’s starting to add up, according to Konduru, who says the average Via customer sees a 15x higher ROI and that from May 2020 – when the company’s service went live – until in December, the company generated $ 51 million in sales. Konduru declined to say exactly how many Via saw of those deals, but said the company is on track to hit $ 10 million in annual recurring revenue this year.

As for how brands get started with Via, it’s pretty straightforward, according to the company. As long as a business is using a commerce platform – from Shopfiy to WooCommerce to Salesforce – it only takes about five minutes to produce a mobile app with a menu outlining the types of interactions the brand can enable through the Via platform, explains Konduru.

Konduru, who tried his hand at investment banking before deciding to start Via, says he’s not surprised by the startup’s rapid traction, though he was surprised at the scale of the conversations. that the company sees. While he imagined Via would be a powerful marketing channel for brands that use the platform to send notifications about abandoned shopping carts and upcoming deliveries, it’s more of a double street. meaning he had imagined.

“Every month there are maybe 15,000 people who start the return process through Via and will receive a notification from a channel supported by Via. But suddenly, let’s say the customer has the wrong t-shirt size. , people are starting to connect with the brand. You see everything from fan appreciation and address changes, to messages about bad discount codes and type exchanges where my order is. something I didn’t expect, ”says Konduru, who says that prior to lifting her Series A round, Via raised $ 4.2 million in seed funding led by Peterson Ventures.

“I thought people would just look at the notification and, say, move it somewhere in the abyss. Instead, people start to interact with the brand.

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