Arena founder Paulo Martins grew up in Brazil playing video games, an industry that thrives on building communities among the players. Later, he came to the U.S., where he was an early employee at Hulu, helping the streaming TV service grow to over 7 million subscribers and $1 billion in revenue.
When it came time to build his own startup, Martins wanted to help companies build a similarly committed group of users to become their core audience. Arena provides the tools to embed online discussions into your website, where people can communicate with one another, help solve problems together and create a sense of camaraderie around the brand.
“We build a Discord, if you will, for every single B2B or B2C company that wants to create that community, that engagement, on their website with just one line of code,” Martins explained. “It’s an easy way to deploy a chat experience, and we want to help our customers engage their audiences in order to build a community and build trust.”
It’s also about better understanding your customers to deliver better experiences with less filtered data with the goal of increasing transactions. Community-building is, at the end of the day, about marketing.
“We are helping you to engage with customers when they are in the product because that’s the best time to engage to get them to become a subscriber, to buy a ticket, make a donation or buy merchandise, for example,” he said.
Murat Bicer, who is leading the Series A investment in Arena for CRV, said it sits between the CDP (customer data platform) on the back end and marketing automation on the front end, helping Arena users make logical connections to understand the customer better.
“Arena basically helps a brand understand how a customer wants to interact with them. This could be through their website, watching videos, maybe participating in a chat, reading blogs, etc. And then kind of taking all that information and tying it to a specific customer so that you can say, ‘Oh, this person who comes to your website and asked about a product is actually this specific person,’” he said.
Martins gets that communities can devolve pretty quickly, as we’ve seen many times online over the years, and there are rules of engagement, and the customer can have a monitor watching the discussion to make sure that it doesn’t get out of hand.
So far the approach seems to be resonating. He reports 25,000 customers spread across 50 countries. The company is growing fast with 35 employees, a number he expects to triple by the end of this year. He said that as he builds his company, as an immigrant founder, diversity is in the company’s DNA.
“Diversity for us is the default. It’s basically in our DNA, especially because as a solo founder in the company, coming from a background where I had to find my way through immigration and try to understand the venture capitalist space and understand the dynamic of how to build a company,” he said.
Today the company announced another big step in that process with a $13.6 million Series A. The round was led by CRV with participation from Craft Ventures, Artisanal Ventures and Vela Partners, along with a host of industry angels.