LifeBrand is on the verge of closing its Series A, a $27 million round that founder and CEO Thomas Colaiezzi says values the three-year-old social media tech company at $110 million.
The West Chester-based team set out to raise $20 million, Colaiezzi told Technical.ly, and they’ve officially closed on $18 million of that round. But some yet-to-be-named investors are participating, and the round is expected to close at $27 million some time next month, he said.
“We are pretty excited about the support,” Colaiezzi said.
It’s been a year of accelerated growth for the company, which uses AI and machine learning technology to scrub the platforms of a social media user for potentially “harmful” posts. That could mean anything from curse words to racist language to bashing a competing company online. In late 2020, LifeBrand participated in and won a pitch competition hosted by investing company StartEngine. The company left with $10,000 and accolades from “Shark Tank’s” Kevin O’Leary aka Mr. Wonderful.
“Is it a solution to a huge problem? Yes,” O’Leary said then. “I have that in all of my companies. Every day I’m doing a constant search of what’s blowing up on social, and when it’s blowing up on social, it’s never good news.”
That fall, LifeBrand also raised seed funding, with participation from local investors Juno Capital. The VC firm, launched by Juno Search Partners cofounders Mikal Harden and Vicki Sack along with Chief of Staff Dylan Foley, invested in the social media tech company early on. The growth the company’s made in a short time has been “incredible” to reflect on, Foley said.
“Since our investment in September 2020, we’ve watched T.J., [COO Jemma Barbarise] and the team impact a big industry with hustle and heart,” Foley said. “As investors, partners, and friends, we can’t wait to see what’s possible with their latest round.”
And, no small feat, the startup was also voted Philly’s Startup of the Year in the 2021 Technical.ly Awards.
This upcoming raise is one of the first for a software company in 2022 after the Greater Philadelphia region experienced its best year ever for VC deals in 2021. The year brought more than $8 billion in investments to Philly-area companies, a good sign for local company leaders who are planning to raise in the coming months.
2021 was all about hitting that product market fit and making a service its customers love, Colaiezzi said. Now, 2022 will be about revenue. He’s eyeing a goal of $10 million in annual recurring revenue, which he says LifeBrand is likely to do sometime this spring or summer. And the Series A will be split between three major priorities the company currently holds: enhancing and adding to its product and tech, hiring, and branding and marketing.
There are new features coming down the line, like the AI’s ability to not only search for potentially harmful text posts, but also screen photos and videos. The company is also working on a social media accountability and awareness courses — one that acts as a sort of “social media literacy” for school-aged kids, one for recent college graduates who are job searching, and one for businesses and their employees.
Another feature coming down the line will redirect some of the focus from the harm that social media can do to the positive. LifeBrand will be introducing social impact scoring, which will give people a different metric to show how they are building a brand and what they’re contributing to a platform.
The team, which is currently around 45 full-time employees, will grow this year. LifeBrand has hired folks in large metros including Boston, New York, DC and Atlanta to expand its reach across the East Coast, and to replicate partnerships similar to its work with local orgs like the Philadelphia Eagles, Sixers and Kraft Sports + Entertainment in those cities. On Feb. 10, it’s launching its first sales class of employees to make future connections.
It’s all pointing to an exciting year ahead, Colaiezzi said.
“I have excitement for our tech, excitement for this $110 million valuation, and I want to prove we’re worth $110 million, and even more,” he said. “I’m excited that we’re full-speed ahead.”
— Lifebrand (@LifeBrand_AI) December 29, 2021