RALEIGHRelay is getting bigger digs to meet its “explosive” growth.

The Raleigh-based cloud software startup said it’s seen both its customer base and yearly revenue jump a whopping 645% over the last year, fueled by demand for its “walkie talkie-like” device and communications platform pitched to frontline workers.

It’s now forcing the company to relocate into more expansive headquarters in the Advance Auto Parts Tower located in the North Hills Innovation District.

“Simply put, we are growing incredibly fast, and we need more space to support our scaling team,” said its CEO Chris Chuang.

Chuang wouldn’t disclose specific figures but told WRAL TechWire this year’s revenue haul would be somewhere in the “double-digit” millions. The new headquarters will add roughly 10,000 square feet of office space and enable it to double its total headcount to 250 employees “over time.”

Initially pitched as a “smartphone alternative” for kids, Republic Wireless spinout pivoted during the pandemic to accommodate frontline teams. Relay’s platform operates on WiFi and 4G networks, and allows frontline teams to access data, answer questions, send alerts, initiate automation, and collect data all with a simple voice-first interface.

Since its initial launch, a growing list of teams across multiple industries have used Relay to improve their businesses. That includes Legends Hospitality, which provides hospitality and concessions services at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, where the Dallas Cowboys play their home games. It became a customer last November.

“We’ve been shocked to see so many frontline teams still stuck operating with pre-internet technology tools like walkie-talkies,” Chuang said. “We’re fired up and highly motivated to help these teams unlock the power of software to dramatically improve their operations, and ultimately bottom lines.”

Chris Chuang. Source: Republic Wireless.

Pandemic pivot

In 2018, Relay unveiled the cell-based device, marketing it as a “kids’ product.” The lightweight cellular push-to-talk devices are as small as a Post-it note and operate similarly to a walkie-talkie. Relay Pro launched in 2019 and Relay+ launched in 2020, with added features like cellular push-to-talk technology, GPS tracking, panic button functionality, and software integration.

Then the pandemic hit, and the device became an unexpected hit with frontline workers and COVID patients separated from their families in intensive care units. Rather than fumble with touch-screen iPhones or iPads that nurses had to facilitate, the devices could easily be attached to the bedside of patients using a clip or specially designed case.

“We were surprised to see a flood of inbound demand from those markets come to us,” Chuang said. “Literally customers would see our ‘kids product’ at Target or on our family-focused website, and imagine on their own how they could use our powerful and simple solution for their business needs.  That was a key signal to us that we needed to accelerate our full launch into the frontline markets, which we did in April 2020.”

Relay was previously owned by Republic Wireless, a Bandwidth spinout, which was bought by DISH Network in 2021. Relay was not part of that deal.

Today, the company said it has equipped “over 100,000 frontline workers” across the country encompassing the hospitality, logistics, construction, education, healthcare, and other frontline industries.

Chuang, who led the spinoff of Republic from Raleigh-based Bandwidth in 2011, said Relay is now laser focused on this this vertical.

“All of our sales, marketing, and product development efforts are now exclusively focused on serving frontline teams in industries like hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, food services, and more,” he said.

Hiring will include go-to-market functions and customer operations. “We’re always looking for great engineers,” he said.

Another unicorn?

Despite strong economic headwinds with inflation and rising costs, Chuang remains bullish.

The company is “well capitalized” after the sale of Republic Wireless to DISH last year, he said. Still, raising additional funds could still be on the cards. “We’re exploring a fundraise this year to further bolster our balance sheet and support accelerating our growth plans even further,” he said.

The five-year plan: Relay will be serving millions of frontline workers and reach $100 million in annual revenue by 2027, Chuang said.

“That’s a big and rarely achieved goal for any SaaS (software as a service) company, but we feel confident Relay will reach that milestone, particularly as this team knows well what that journey looks like and requires,” he said. “We’ve been part of achieving it twice before in our experiences at Bandwidth and Republic Wireless.”

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