Via is coming out of Stealth
Via announces funding of over $20m, including a Seed round led by Peterson Ventures and a Series A led by Footwork, to transform how eCommerce brands and consumers connect and transact on mobile.
From Peterson Ventures’ earliest days, one of our main investing focuses has been eCommerce, specifically backing some of the pioneering digitally native vertical brands like Allbirds, Eargo, Bonobos, Cotopaxi, Madison Reed and more. As we continued to invest in D2C brands, we saw a trend emerging — the long tail of eCommerce was growing rapidly as platforms like Shopify empowered entrepreneurs everywhere to start an eCommerce business.
Over the last 4 years, eCommerce infrastructure has become a big area of investment focus for us at Peterson Ventures with the rise of an ecosystem of tools built to empower eCommerce brands to grow and thrive. Two trends came into focus for us: (1) over 70% of all eCommerce sales will be on mobile by 2021 and (2) consumers spend 30-48 mins every day in mobile messaging channels like SMS, FB Messenger and WhatsApp (supported by amazing engagement metrics - 99% open rates, 97% of messages are read within 15 mins of delivery, and 45% click-through rates in messaging channels vs. 6-7% in email channels). We believe that having conversations with consumers and driving sales in messaging channels is a capability every eCommerce business in the world needs to develop in a mobile commerce world. There were some really impressive companies in the space building solutions focused on broadcast marketing in SMS but no one was doing a great job addressing the full spectrum of the consumer experience and how to power a cohesive two-way, ‘conversational commerce’ experience between eCommerce businesses and their customers. This background prepared us to lead a Seed round in Via last year.
Via is a mobile commerce platform led by Tejas Konduru (a former Peterson intern) and his co-Founder Greg Woodfield. Tejas is an entrepreneur we are really excited to back. His parents immigrated with him from India to the U.S. when he was 1 year old, and they raised him in Silicon Valley while they worked as engineers at tech companies and ran restaurants as a side hustle. When Tejas was in high school, it was his responsibility to help run the restaurants. He took a particular interest in their challenges around marketing and driving traffic, and he experimented with every marketing tool out there to drive growth. After college, Tejas went into investment banking but couldn’t shake the itch to start something, so he left to start Via, which initially was focused on helping brick-and-mortar small business owners with their marketing. When my partner Ben first took the call with Tejas, we were less interested in targeting brick-and-mortar merchants, so we passed on the opportunity to invest in Via the first time we spoke to Tejas but shared with him our interest in mobile commerce and messaging given our insights regarding eCommerce trends.
We continued to stay in touch with Tejas, as we were incredibly impressed by him. Over the next few months, we were blown away by Tejas and his co-founder Greg’s ability to rapidly pivot to product-market fit in mobile commerce. Tejas and Greg were maniacally focused on the customer and providing a differentiated offering in the marketplace. As merchants began to adopt Via to run their mobile messaging campaigns, they immediately saw a substantial ROI on the order of 15x+. The high, measurable ROI proved to be a powerful hook for the product. The experience they built to power a two-way conversation meant that Via was solving a big pain point for their customers across marketing and customer service driving delight and product stickiness. In short order, we watched as the business began to rapidly scale (in fact, ARR tripled from first meeting to term sheet). Rarely have we seen founders make so much progress in such a short amount of time and we were grateful for the opportunity to lead Via’s Seed round in late summer of 2020.
Since we led Via’s Seed, what we have been most impressed by is Tejas’s leadership and vision. By the time the Seed closed, the company was already at Series A metrics (and cash flow positive) and the pressing need was to build a team to scale before the next round. Tejas has wow’d us by punching way above his weight, hiring incredible leaders from some of the best tech companies and high growth startups in Utah and the Bay Area. We have been energized as we watch his vision evolve in a really dynamic way from conversational commerce to something even bigger in mobile commerce, a category Via is creating around a paradigm shift they envision in how consumers will buy on their mobile phones. Alongside Tejas, there is a driven, creative and competitive team that has broken through every goal to more than triple the business again in the last 8 months while supporting really happy and engaged customers.
Via came out of stealth today, announcing a $15m Series A round led by Footwork - check out Connie Loizos’ interview of Tejas on TechCrunch for the story. We couldn’t imagine better partners than Mike Smith and Nikhil Basu Trivedi at Footwork to join us on the board and support Tejas and team as they continue to build and scale the leading mobile commerce platform (check out Nikhil’s blog post here!). In addition to Footwork, Via brought on some of the best eCommerce and Saas CEOs as strategic angels in the Series A, including Ryan Smith @Qualtrics, Josh James @Domo, Jeff Kearl @Stance, Todd Pedersen @Vivint, Jack Altman @Lattice, Curt Doman @ProgressiveLeasing and John Kim @Sendbird. If you want to be part of defining the future of mobile commerce, Via is hiring across customer success, engineering, finance, legal, product, and sales!
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