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Gravy raises $4.5M for its service that helps subscription businesses recover failed payments

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Gravy, a startup helping subscription-based businesses recover failed payments, has raised $4.5 million in Series A funding for its specialized combination of technology and a human workspace that works to reacquire customers lost to what’s known as “involuntary churn.” That means the customer didn’t choose to end their subscription, but — for any one of hundreds of possible reasons — their credit card payment failed.

Typically, subscription-powered businesses attempt to correct this issue with technology — like sending automated emails, for example. Gravy, however, has developed a different solution that pairs its U.S.-based retention specialists with technology that alerts them to the failed payments. It then sells this whole system as a package to clients who use Gravy as an extension of their own workforce.

The new funding round — Gravy’s first institutional money — was led by Birmingham-based Arlington Family Partners, one of the few family offices in the southeast. It’s also one with a personal connection to Gravy co-founders, CEO Casey Graham and Chief of Staff, Renee Weber, as it managed their earnings from a prior acquisition.

Gravy, in fact, actually got its start at that earlier business, The Rocket Company, a coaching and resource provider for churches, which exited to a private equity group, Ministry Brands.

“We spent two years fixing [the problem of failed payments] in the last company and created a tech-enabled solution where we leveraged actual human beings to win back failed payments for subscriptions. And by doing that, we got a 5x offer higher than the initial offer because we fixed the failed payment problem,” Graham notes.

He first assumed other subscription businesses were doing the same, but later discovered that many were not. Instead, they tended to use automated means to address the problem, which would only recoup about 15% to 20% of the failed payments.

These tech-only solutions don’t work as well because customers often dismiss automated emails from companies, Graham says. However, customers do respond to personal outreach — but that’s something many new and fast-growing businesses can’t afford as they’re investing more heavily in growth and scale.

Gravy offers them a middle ground between automation and hiring in-house. Companies contract with Gravy on a subscription basis by paying a flat fee, tiered based upon transaction volume. This fee ranges from $997 on the low end to $8,000 on the high end. Gravy then integrates with the client’s own payment products and processor, their subscription manager and any other solutions they may use for managing subscriptions — like Stripe, Braintree, Recurly, Keap (Infusionsoft) and others. It even sets up a Gravy channel on the company’s Slack in order to better communicate with company staff.

The end result is that Gravy’s team feels like a part of the business itself, not some contract workforce.

Once established, Gravy’s team will use email and text, per the client’s preferences, to personally reach out to customers with failed payments to try to get their card information updated. Because it’s operating closely with the client, the specialists can also offer things like “stay bonuses” and other deals that could help bring back a customer who may not have otherwise bothered to return. During COVID, for example, Gravy also offered additional options, like the ability for the customer to skip several months along with other more personalized options to meet the customer’s specific needs.

“When we’re onboarding [a client], we create an empathetic script of three different responses, or opportunities for us to negotiate with the customer to win that customer back,” Graham explains. This works because of the human component — people know when they’re talking to a real person and not an automated script, he says.

Image Credits: Gravy

Since its founding in 2017, Gravy has scaled to over 300 clients, whose businesses may be as small as $200,000-$250,000 in revenue up to $100 million in annual revenue from subscriptions. These clients either operate in the B2B space — like B2B content subscriptions or tech education and certification, for example — or in the B2C space. In particular, Gravy is leveraged by a number of “box” subscription services (which offer to ship a box of products to a customer’s home) and B2C education and online courses.

To date, Gravy has processed over 6 million failed payments and has won back $175 million in failed payment subscriptions. The company is now on a mission to return $1 billion in failed payments by 2023. Gravy is also expected to pass $1 million in MRR this year, Graham says.

Notably, Gravy’s retention specialists aren’t “gig workers” or contractors — they’re full-time employees with benefits. And they can be employed from anywhere, which Graham says is a competitive advantage.

Though technically an Atlanta-area startup, Graham and Weber live 50 miles north of downtown Atlanta.

“I live on a farm, and we were told we were at a disadvantage because we weren’t in the middle of the Atlanta tech scene,” Graham says. “But the reality is, it became a huge advantage for us because our strategy has been to recruit the best people in small towns across the United States. Besides, he adds, “Slack is our headquarters.”

This strategy has allowed Gravy to also employ several military family members, who often have a hard time finding consistent work because they have to move regularly. That leads them to often take gig work instead of full-time jobs.

Image Credits: Gravy

“The gig economy — those companies are not committed to those people. They don’t care about them, or if they work or not. It’s a gig,” Graham says. “Gravy is committed to them on salaries, benefits … that’s something we’re super proud of.” He says Gravy’s salaries start at $55,000.

With the new funding, Gravy plans to expand its team of 83 to about 150 by year-end, expand its client acquisition efforts and further invest into its product. Longer term, he believes Gravy could also help businesses with other needs, including voluntary churn, for starters, and even customer service and customer success in the future.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Flourish, a startup that aims to help banks engage and retain customers, raises $1.5M

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It’s not uncommon these days to hear of U.S.-based investors backing Latin American startups.

But it’s not every day that we hear of Latin American VCs investing in U.S.-based startups.

Berkeley-based fintech Flourish has raised $1.5 million in a funding round led by Brazilian venture capital firm Canary. Founded by Pedro Moura and Jessica Eting, the startup offers an “engagement and financial wellness” solution for banks, fintechs and credit unions with the goal of helping them engage and retain clients.

Also participating in the round were Xochi Ventures, First Check Ventures, Magma Capital and GV Angels as well as strategic angels including Rodrigo Xavier (former Bank of America CEO in Brazil), Beth Stelluto (formerly of Schwab),  Gustavo Lasala (president and CEO of The People Fund) and Brian Requarth (Founder of Viva Real). 

With clients in the U.S., Bolivia and Brazil, Flourish has developed a solution that features three main modules: 

  • A rewards engine designed to incentivize users to save or invest money
  • An intelligent and automated micro-savings feature where users can create personalized rules (such as transferring $15 into a rainy day fund every time their favorite sports team wins)
  • A financial knowledge module, where personal financial transactions and spending patterns are turned into a question and answer game. 

In the U.S., Flourish began by testing end-user mechanics with organizations such as CommonWealth and OpportunityFund. In 2019, it released a B2C version of the Flourish app (called the Flourish Savings App)  as a pilot for its banking platform, which can integrate with banks through a SDK or an API.  It is also now licensing its engagement technology to banks, retailers and fintechs across the Americas. Flourish has piloted or licensed its solution to US-based credit unions, Sicoob (Brazil’s largest credit union) and BancoSol in Bolivia. 

The startup makes money through a partnership model that focuses on user activation and engagement. 

Both immigrants, Moura and Eting met while in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Moura emigrated to the U.S. from Brazil as a teen while Eting is the daughter of a Filiponio father and mother of Mexican descent.

The pair bonded on their joint mission of building a business that empowered people to create positive money habits and understand their finances.

Currently, the 11- person team works out of the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. It plans to use its new capital to increase its number of customers in LatAm, do more hiring and develop new functionalities for the Flourish platform. 

In particular, it plans to next focus on the Brazilian market, and will scale in a few select countries in the Americas. 

“There are three things that make Latin America, and more specifically Brazil, attractive to us at this moment,” Moura said. “Currently, the B2B financial technology market is still in its nascency. This combined with open banking regulation and the need for more responsible products provides Flourish a unique opportunity in Brazil.”

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Inside Workvivo’s plans to take on Microsoft in the employee experience space

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Maintaining company culture when the majority of staff is working remotely is a challenge for every organization — big and small.

This was an issue, even before COVID. But it’s become an even bigger problem with so many employees working from home. Employers have to be careful that workers don’t feel disconnected and isolated from the rest of the company and that morale stays high.

Enter Workvivo, a Cork, Ireland-based employee experience startup that is backed by Zoom founder Eric Yuan and Tiger Global that has steadily grown over 200% over the past year.

The company works with organizations ranging in size from 100 employees to over 100,000 and boasts more than 500,000 users. According to CEO and co-founder John Goulding, it’s had 100% retention since it launched. Customers include Telus International, Kentech, A+E Networks and Seneca Gaming Corp., among others.

Founded by Goulding and Joe Lennon in 2017, Workvivo launched its employee communication platform in mid-2018 with the goal of helping companies create “an engaging virtual workplace” and replace the outdated intranet.

“We’re not about real time, we’re more asynchronous communication,” Goulding explained. “We have a lot of transactional tools, and typically carry the bigger message about what’s going on in a company and what positive things are happening. We’re more focused on human connection.”

Using Workvivo, companies can provide information like CEO updates, recognition for employees via a social style — “more things that shape the culture so workers can get a real sense of what’s happening in an organization.” It launched podcasts in the second quarter and livestreaming in Q4.

In 2019, Workvivo showed its product to Zoom’s Yuan, who ended up becoming one of the company’s first investors. Then in May of 2020, the company raised $16 million in a Series A funding led by Tiger Global, which is best known for large growth-oriented rounds.

Workvivo, which was built out long before the COVID-19 pandemic, found itself in an opportune place last year. And demand for its offering has reflected that. 

“Since COVID hit, growth has accelerated,” Goulding told TechCrunch. “We grew three times in size over where we were before the pandemic started, in terms of revenue, users, customers and employees.”

The SaaS operator’s deals range from $50,000 to close to $1 million a year, he said. Workvivo is Europe-based and operates in 82 countries. But the majority of its customers are located in the U.S. with 80% of its growth coming from the country.

The startup opened an office in San Francisco in early 2020, which it is expanding. Thirty percent of its 65-person team is currently U.S.-based, with some working remotely from other states.

While Workvivo would not reveal hard revenue figures, Goulding only said it’s not seeking additional funding anytime soon considering the company is “in a very strong capital position.”

To tackle the same problem, Microsoft last month launched Viva, its new “employee experience platform,” or, in non-marketing terms, its new take on the intranet sites most large companies tend to offer their employees. With the move, Microsoft is taking on the likes of Facebook’s Workplace platform and Jive in addition to Workvivo.

Despite the increasingly crowded space, Workvivo believes it has an advantage over competitors in that it integrates well with Slack and Zoom.

“We’re sitting alongside Slack and Zoom in the ecosystem,” Goulding said. “There’s Zoom, Slack and us.”

Slack is real-time messaging and what’s happening in the immediate future, and Zoom is real-time video and “about the moment,” he said.

To Goulding, Microsoft’s new offering is unproven yet and a reactionary move.

“It’s obvious there’s a battle to be won for the center of the digital workplace,” he said. “We’re here to capture the heartbeat of an organization, not pulses.”

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Bitflips when PCs try to reach windows.com: What could possibly go wrong?

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Stock photo of ones and zeros displayed across a computer screen.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Bitflips are events that cause individual bits stored in an electronic device to flip, turning a 0 to a 1 or vice versa. Cosmic radiation and fluctuations in power or temperature are the most common naturally occurring causes. Research from 2010 estimated that a computer with 4GB of commodity RAM has a 96 percent chance of experiencing a bitflip within three days.

An independent researcher recently demonstrated how bitflips can come back to bite Windows users when their PCs reach out to Microsoft’s windows.com domain. Windows devices do this regularly to perform actions like making sure the time shown in the computer clock is accurate, connecting to Microsoft’s cloud-based services, and recovering from crashes.

Remy, as the researcher asked to be referred to, mapped the 32 valid domain names that were one bitflip away from windows.com. He provided the following to help readers understand how these flips can cause the domain to change to whndows.com:

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