RALEIGH — Jesse Lipson’s latest venture is taking off.
For the second time in seven months, the four-time 42-year-old founder has landed another $8 million for his software company called Real Magic. That’s on top of $6 million raised last July, bringing total fundraising to $20 million.
Its first product, aptly called Levitate, is a “keep-in-touch” marketing platform that helps businesses grow. A little more than two years after launching, Lipson says it’s taking off.
“Given all of the uncertainty in the world, we decided that having some extra money on the balance sheet was a good idea,” Lipson told WRAL TechWire.
“The events of 2020 reminded us of how unpredictable the world can be, and I sleep better at night knowing we have enough funding to continue to invest in the company through market turbulence.”
WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam had the chance to pose a few questions to him. Here’s what he had to say:
- In less than seven months, Levitate has doubled the number of paying customers, reaching the 2,000-mark — in a pandemic, no less. What is up with that?
We’re very lucky to have a product that is still relevant during the pandemic. In many ways, Levitate is even more relevant during this time because people need to keep in touch virtually instead of in person.
- You’ve also quadrupled revenue. What is driving growth?
Our revenue growth is mostly a function of our growing customer base. Prior to 2020, Levitate focused primarily on the Insurance and Real Estate industries and in 2020 we expanded our focus to include the Financial and Legal industries as well.
- You said you plan to invest in “further improving the product and building awareness of Levitate in the market.” Can you be more specific?
Most of investment will be earmarked for hiring more employees across all departments, but I’m particularly excited about using our investment to serve new industry verticals and also to build some really great new product features to help our clients keep in touch in a more authentic way than any other solution in the market.
- How has the workforce grown in last year? The last time we checked, Levitate had around 80 employees. What’s the figure looking like now?
We have over 100 employees now and we are looking to hire 50-75 more people in 2021.
- The company is also hiring in several areas. How many, and in what areas?
We hope to hire across all departments: sales, marketing, engineering, customer success, support, and operations.
- The company is based at Raleigh Founded. What’s happening with your office space? Any plans to move? Still mostly working remotely?
Yes, yes, and yes. We are still based at Raleigh Founded, but we recently signed a lease in the Gateway shopping center for additional space and we’re going to be connecting that new space to our space in Raleigh Founded. We actually move into the new space next week.
Most employees are working remotely now but we have some employees in the office and we very much look forward to seeing each other in person more often once the worst of COVID is behind us.
- When you sold ShareFile, it had about 100 employees and was worth in the $10 to $15 million-revenue range. How does Levitate compare to that?
I actually have a column in our business model that shows historical data of ShareFile’s run rate revenue at the same point in the company history for each month. Our run rate revenue is about double ShareFile’s at the same point in the companies’ history.
- Last but not least, how is Brooks Bell? [Bell is a fellow entrepreneur and Triangle fixture, as well as Lipson’s wife. She is an advocate for those living with colon cancer, and the importance of colonoscopies after her own stage III diagnosis in 2019.]
Brooks is doing great. She’s had multiple clean scans since she finished chemotherapy in June 2019 and has turned her attention to several non-profits. She serves on the Board at Saint Mary’s School, the Research Triangle Foundation, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, and is an advisor at Duke Raleigh hospital. She will be joining the Board of a very well-known foundation soon, but I’ll let her break that news separately.