Apr 27, 2023 - Business

Raleigh communications startup Levitate raises $14M

Illustration of an 8-bit envelope with money coming out.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Levitate, a Raleigh-based communications software startup founded by entrepreneur Jesse Lipson, has raised nearly $14 million in a new funding round from investors, the company said Thursday.

Driving the news: The Series C round was led by Durham's Bull City Venture Partners and included the Triangle Tweener Fund, Tippet Venture Partners, Protagonist and many local entrepreneurs.

  • Levitate makes email marketing and communication tools that compete with companies like Mailchimp. It has raised $40 million since it was founded five years ago.

Why it matters: Lipson believes Levitate is beginning to hit serious traction, with it recently crossing more than 4,000 customers.

  • He sold his last company, ShareFile, to Citrix in 2011 for $54 million and was one of the reasons Citrix opened a large office in downtown Raleigh.
  • While Citrix's presence in Raleigh has shrunk in the past year, ShareFile still has hundreds of employees in the Raleigh area.

What they're saying: "We felt like we're ready for some more growth capital to kind of take us to that next level, as we try to keep scaling up," Lipson told Axios.

  • "Hopefully it gives us enough capital to go to the next level and hopefully get to an IPO scale, maybe over these next five to six years."

Details: Headquartered at Gateway Plaza in Raleigh, Levitate now has 150 employees, Lipson said.

  • The company declined to share its valuation or revenue numbers, but Lipson said Levitate is "well north of $10 million revenue wise."
  • Most of its customers are small businesses that want to move beyond mass email sends. But it now offers services beyond emails, including text message and social media campaigns.

It's also adding artificial intelligence capabilities to its services, like ways to automate emails while retaining personal touches and determining which customers need to be reached out to.

  • "It's amazing — in the last three to six months — how far the technology has come," Lipson said. "When we started developing the ChatGPT API wasn't even out."
  • "It's moving so fast. Our customers are small businesses, so they can't possibly keep up with all the technologies that are happening in AI," Lipson added. "What we're trying to do is distill it down to where it can provide business value to them."

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