Utah customer communications and payments platform Podium hit another benchmark Monday, announcing a fresh $201 million funding round and market valuation north of $3 billion.
Podium co-founder and CEO Eric Rea said his company is well positioned to continue to grow its client base, which currently numbers over 100,000 businesses, as consumer transactions and interactions are increasingly mediated by digital tools.
“We see this as a watershed moment for local businesses all over the world, especially as the world opens up again and local businesses are tasked with meeting the changing preferences of consumers who have welcomed digital-first interactions through the pandemic,” Rea said in a statement. “Our goal is to help communities get back on their feet and to help local businesses participate in a meaningful way in the digital evolution happening at the local level.”
Podium’s latest funding, a Series D round, is led by YC Continuity with participation from Durable Capital Partners, Arpex Capital, Accel, Album VC, IVP, Sapphire Ventures, Summit Partners and Sorenson Capital.
YC Continuity managing director Ali Rowghani said Podium is excelling at finding and serving a segment of small to midsize business that has long been missed by most technology firms.
“Podium brings world-class marketing and payments tools to the small and medium businesses that power our economy and employ the lion’s share of workers,” Rowghani said in a statement. “These businesses have traditionally been overlooked by technology companies. Podium’s products level the playing field for SMBs and help them compete in a changing world.”
The company began life in 2014 as a tool to mediate online customer reviews for brick-and-mortar businesses but has since grown into a multitool suite that includes customer messaging, mobile payments, webchat, online reviews and customer feedback using messaging channels that customers actually use and trust, according to Podium.
In a 2017 Deseret News profile, Rea said the idea to launch a company focused on giving small businesses advanced digital communication tools was born of a conversation he had with his father, who was a small-business owner at the time.
“My dad owned some gas stations and a tire shop in Calgary,” Rea said. “When all this discovery, reviews and comments, started coming online, he didn’t know how to deal with it.
“It was showing me how out of sync the average local business is with technology.”
The seed took some years to germinate, as Rea finished an information systems degree at BYU then took a job in Austria as a programmer for the International Atomic Energy Agency. But he didn’t find fulfillment with the work he was doing in Vienna.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out that working for one of the largest bureaucracies in the world really wasn’t for me,” Rea said.
In that profile piece, Album VC founder and general partner Sid Krommenhoek, who was an early investor in the company, said Podium’s subsequent success was not at all a surprise.
“Eric and Dennis (Steele) put their heart and soul into everything they do,” said Krommenhoek, who is also a Podium board member. “As an entrepreneur myself, having built and scaled a business, you never quite know how things are going to go, and there is some serendipity, but the foundation of Podium is a great product and a lot of hard work.”
Krommenhoek said Podium’s success has been about more than just developing an effective product.
“These guys have a hustle that permeates everything they do,” Krommenhoek said. “From building their product to selling their product to being really close to their customers.”
While Podium got its start in a tiny office above a Provo bicycle shop in 2014, the company has since invested in two new office buildings in Lehi, employs over 1,000 people and has become a regular feature on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing U.S. companies.
Last year, following the announcement of a $125 million Series C funding round, Podium said it had mediated business interactions on behalf of over half of all U.S. cellphone users.
The company has attracted nearly $420 million in venture investment to date, according to business data site Crunchbase.