RALEIGH – Serial entrepreneur Jesse Lipson could very well know how to levitate.
It’s hard to put anything past this four-time 42-year-old founder who has just landed another cool $6 million for his latest venture, a software company called Real Magic. Its first product, aptly called Levitate, is a “keep-in-touch” marketing platform that helps businesses grow – and just two years of launching, it’s taking off.
“We’re growing really fast and adding hundreds of customers a month, so there’s a lot to do,” the former ShareFile founder told WRAL TechWire in a Zoom interview this week. “One of the things that this year has taught me is that there’s so much uncertainty in the world, it’s good to make sure you’ve got plenty of funding.”
Even in the midst of a pandemic, Lipson says his business has tripled its customer base since its first big raise last June. Among its many milestones: hitting 1,000 paid customers and bringing total fundraising to $12 million to date.
“Being a software business and just kind of the nature of our product, we’ve done really well during coronavirus,” he explains. “Our clients have been relying on Levitate more than ever to help them stay top of mind. When we got into March and April, we saw the highest active use that we’ve ever seen in our product. Our investors were really still excited about what we’re doing, and more than willing to fund us.”
Backers included Tippet Venture Partners, Peter Gassner (co-founder and CEO of Veeva Systems) and Bull City Venture Partners in Durham – all long-time investors of Lipson.
Now, Lipson says he’s all about scaling quickly. Today, the startup based out of HQ Raleigh has around 80 employees. Lipson says he plans to “more than double” that figure by the end of next year.
“We’re really hiring primarily across the board — sales, customer support, success and engineering,” he says. “We brought on like five to seven new people just in July alone.”
With the funding, he also plans to invest in further improving the product and building awareness of Levitate in the market: “Really, we’re just kind of scaling the entire operation.”
Lipson is one of the Triangle’s big success stories and homegrown talents.
After graduating from Duke University in 2000, the self-taught engineer became a full-time entrepreneur at 23. Later, he launched Sharefile, a file transfer service that he grew to four million users in six years and sold to Citrix in 2011. Two years ago, it ranked #80 on Forbes’ Just Companies list, with a market cap of $13 billion.
But these days, Lipson, who is married to fellow entrepreneur and Triangle fixture Brooks Bell, is looking ahead. He says he’s confident that Levitate will grow even bigger than Sharefile.
“Definitely. I think it has the potential,” he says. “I always kind of track where ShareFile was at this time, and where we are. And we’re definitely growing faster than ShareFile was at this time. Part of that is due to the funding. With ShareFile, we didn’t raise any funding; we were totally bootstrap. But I absolutely think that this company will be bigger than ShareFile, and that’s my goal.”
For the time being, however, he’s not planning on an exit anytime soon.
“It’s pretty unlikely that we’ll sell the company at the same size that ShareFile was. When I sold ShareFile, it had about 100 employees and was worth in the $10 to $15 million revenue range. I want to grow the company bigger than that. And then eventually, in the very long term, every company usually either sells or goes public. For us, that’s way in the future, probably the five to 10 years from now we’ll start to look at that.”