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Team CRV

Elevating Engagement for Customers Like Sony Music and Vans with a Simple Line of Code — Arena’s Series A

By Murat Bicer and Erica Van

Today’s brands are more conscientious when it comes to the relationships they have with their customers. Rather than just selling to us, brands are taking the time to pay attention to our likes and dislikes while also creating a steady cadence of meaningful conversations with us. Clearly this, what I’ll call the perceptive automation market, is a space CRV is excited about as the e-commerce and retail space evolve.

Our investments in companies like Emotive, Gorgias, Iterable, Loop, Wonderment and Zendesk …all of which facilitate symbiotic relationships between brands and buyers, are a testament to our commitment to this space. That brands “be good listeners” at scale is arguably an even more critically important skill in the post pandemic era, one where we’ve all become more proficient online shoppers. Unlike the early e-commerce hey days, price isn’t the only factor savvy consumers care about. We’re more loyal to organizations that make shopping online more effortless and seamless. As we enter the meta verse and ponder which emerging tech trends might take off, one thing is for certain, our tolerance for companies who don’t “listen” to us has dwindled. In the next phase of online retail, the bar is high. We want, or perhaps even need, brands to act like the perfect personal shopper bringing us items that fit perfectly, are the right color and the right price, directly to our closet. At a point in time when we cherish moments of in person magic with friends, family members and loved ones, stuck at home shoppers have no time to wait while being on the web. Today it’s about more than just bargains… we also care about convenience, quality, speed and supporting local merchants who align with our values.

As our team monitored this space, there was a glaring hole. While brands were able to listen more closely to their customers, they were also being bombarded by tsunami after tsunami of conversations across a plethora of platforms. Today’s companies are inundated with traffic from the likes of Facebook, YouTube, etc. making it difficult for a brand to know who is saying what and how all of those pieces fit together. Different conversations with the same customer could be happening in different rooms of the same house making it tough for merchants to keep up. That’s where Arena enters the picture.

In a world rife with privacy concerns, and constant battles erupting between Facebook and Apple, many martech practitioners are shifting their data sourcing activity from third-party to first-party data. We love that Arena’s no-code communication platform facilitates real-time conversations and encourages customer engagement. Brands are no longer tethered to third party cookies and social networks with Arena’s no code technology. Arena makes it possible for massive brands like Adobe, Harvard, Sony Music, Unilever and Vans to have intelligent discussions with their customers. By leveraging engagement data gained from conversations and combining it with AI, companies with thousands of customers can better understand who might want to buy what, which is why I’m thrilled to announce that we’re leading Arena’s $13.6 million Series A round.

Arena’s founder and CEO, Paulo Martins, captivated us early on. His hustle and experience building highly scalable products is impressive. Paulo is an immigrant who grew up far from Silicon Valley, in Minas Gerais, a heartland state in Brazil. The son of a cop and a housewife, who to this day is still a bigger fan of video games than soccer, Paulo taught himself how to code at the age of 12. While his LinkedIn Profile boasts of coveted stints at places like NASA, Ubisoft and Hulu, if you get to know Paulo you’ll find there’s much more to his story. Paulo also lived in a basement with 18 other people in LA when he first came to the US on a tourist visa with $32 in his pocket, worked as a manual laborer harvesting grapes on a vineyard so he could make ends meet while studying abroad in France and, at one point, he even lived out of his car for a year and a half while he was in Brazil. Minas Gerais translates roughly to, “General Mines.” It’s a place known for metals (like iron ore and gold) and also tough gemstones like emeralds. It’s in meeting people like Paulo that you realize what kind of mettle and strength founders are made of.

Paulo’s infectious energy and ambition led the Arena team to secure more than 25,000 customer accounts including a bevy of Fortune 500 companies… even though the company is just a few years old. This most recent influx of capital will help the business extend its enterprise reach, so even more high profile companies can better converse with their customers with just one line of Arena’s code.

Arena and Paulo’s story includes tales of grit and determination, something we love hearing from founders. If that sounds like you, swing by and get to know our team. We love backing people who want to shape Shopify and other platforms into more robust ecosystems.

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CRV is a VC firm that invests in early-stage enterprise, consumer and biotech startups. We’ve invested in +400 startups like DoorDash, Airtable and Iterable.