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Bevy has raised $40 million at a $325 million valuation to grow its platform for staging virtual events for enterprises. And it has also broken a diversity barrier by bringing 25 Black leaders on as investors.
Palo Alto, California-based Bevy helps enterprises build, grow, and scale their global customer communities using its platform for virtual, in-person, and hybrid digital-physical events.
The funding came from Accel Partners, LinkedIn, Qualtrics cofounder Ryan Smith, and Upfront Ventures. About 70% of the individuals participating in the round — representing 20% of total funds raised — are Black investors, including diversity pioneer James Lowry, Facebook board member Peggy Alford, and Beats by Dre marketing exec Omar Johnson.
A call to change
Bevy CEO Derek Andersen and cofounders Joel Fernandes and Alex Bendig started Bevy in 2017 after finding success with Startup Grind. With Bevy, they wanted to build a platform for enterprise communities, but the pandemic forced them to focus on virtual communities and digital events.
A year ago, Bevy was looking at a different problem. It had grown its headcount to 27 without a single Black employee. After the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter unrest, Andersen had to grapple with uncomfortable truths.
“A year ago, I’m embarrassed to say, of the 27 people on the team, not a single one was Black or brown,” Andersen said. “When George Floyd was murdered on May 25, we started to really look inside of ourselves. What could we do to bring about the change that needs to happen?”
Andersen said he had conversations about racism with his children, who are between three and 11. He also looked inside his company to see what it could do. The more he thought about it, the more Andersen believed that improving racial inequities in the tech sector wasn’t only the right thing to do, it was the profitable thing to do, especially for a community-oriented company.
“We set a goal internally to bring about the change, as we know about 14% of the U.S. population is Black,” Andersen said. “So we said we needed that to be at a minimum there. But we need to be well above that so we can really speed these things up. And so we set a goal internally to have 20% of our team be from the Black and brown communities.”
Slowly, Andersen started hiring Black and Latinx employees. Today, the company has 14% Black and Latinx employees on its staff of 100. Andersen said his goal is to make that 20% of the workforce by September. Half of Andersen’s direct reports are women.
Getting investors on board
Andersen didn’t do it alone. He got help from Black investors like Kobie Fuller, general partner at Upfront and founder of Valence. When Fuller and others learned he was serious, they referred more Black job candidates to Bevy.
“I saw that this could be a very large company worth billions and billions of dollars,” Fuller said. “But what I’m most excited about [with] Derrick as a founder/CEO, is not what he’s building, but how he’s building it. And the type of angle he’s taking around prioritizing culture and team and thinking about it, not from only regarding his workforce, but all facets of the organization, including the board and also the cap table.”
As the company has increased its diversity, it has also become more valuable. At its current $325 million valuation, Bevy is 4 times more valuable than it was a year ago. The company has raised $60 million to date.
“I’m trying to build the future of my product,” Andersen said. “Why wouldn’t I try to build the future with my team? And why wouldn’t I try to build the future with my investor base? We are a community platform. Our message is that if Bevy can do it, anybody can do it. There’s no reason every company can’t do this.”
What seemed obvious was that the company needed to reach out to the community to build a community platform.
“With us being a community platform, it’s silly to think that we’re going to be the best community platform that’s out there if our organization doesn’t appropriately reflect the communities that we serve,” Fuller said. “Derek set KPIs against the diversity metrics, which a lot of people will talk about, but he drove action toward diversity. We have to think about bringing the Black community closer to the innovation economy, where wealth is created at a staggering rate.”
Fuller believed enough in the mission that he recruited his friends.
“I devoted my whole life to trying to deal with diversity and inclusion,” Lowry said. “It’s been a tough battle. I’ve had my successes with what I’ve done on Wall Street, major corporations, and the auto industry. But nothing has happened to shake up America more than George Floyd’s killing. In Silicon Valley, within the tech industry, you just haven’t seen progress with minorities and women. We’ve seen progress. But if you look at where we are in terms of the number of businesses of size, creating large revenues, and employing a lot of people, we haven’t been as successful as I had hoped,” Lowry said.
Then Fuller came to him to talk about Bevy. Lowry saw a good opportunity in Andersen’s company, and they all agreed this was a chance to do good and do well at the same time.
“I feel so energized and motivated to be part of this,” Lowry said. “Hopefully, we can serve the world. When you have a founder who cares, and you have investors who want to invest in the right thing, then we can make history.”
Customers pay between $20,000 and $1 million annually to license Bevy to scale their communities and host virtual conferences. As hybrid events and eventually in-person events begin to emerge post-pandemic, Bevy wants to be the gold standard, enabling enterprise brands to not only host large virtual conferences and events, but also scale their global community events through a network of smaller, high-frequency, globally connected events.
As a result, the company is poised to win the enterprise portion of the market and is on track to reach $30 million in annual revenue run rate by the end of 2021, a 15 times increase from 2019.
Bevy powers enterprise event communities for brands such as Google, Snowflake, Facebook, HubSpot, Adobe, Salesforce, Slack, Twitch, Atlassian, Zendesk, Twilio, and others. In 2020, Bevy served as strategic advisor to 125 new and existing enterprise brands as they shifted from in-person communities to virtual and hybrid events.
The collaborative approach enabled 30,000 corporate event planners and enterprise community leaders across Bevy’s ecosystem to host more than 100,000 events across 120 countries, empowering them to hit their key business growth metrics.
The new funding will be used to grow Bevy’s team from 100 employees to 250 in 2021. Bevy’s completely remote workforce is located in 10 different countries on four continents.
Lowry, who was the first Black employee at McKinsey in 1968, said in an interview that adding the Black investors was also a stroke of genius because now Andersen will be able to tap into the networks of these investors to stir up more minority candidates. That group wants the company to succeed and so they will only recommend the best candidates, Lowry said.
“Derek has the strongest, most well-connected Black people in America to help him recruit and build his organization,” Lowry said. “I don’t think anybody’s ever taken advantage of that. I think it’s a tremendous thing.”
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