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Text-Messaging Platform Community Raises $40 Million From Salesforce

04/09/2021 | 04:14am EDT

By Sahil Patel

Community.com Inc., a messaging platform that lets brands, celebrities and others text with consumers, said it has raised a $40 million investment from Salesforce Ventures, the investing arm of software company Salesforce.com Inc.

The new capital brings Santa Monica, Calif.-based Community's funding so far to nearly $90 million, according to the company. Other investors include Twilio Inc., Live Nation Entertainment Inc. and the Sony Innovation Fund.

The funding comes as marketers, media companies and prominent individuals are seeking more direct ways to communicate with consumers, and while growing restrictions on online tracking complicate their efforts to precisely target digital ads.

Community lets companies and people send text messages in groups or one-on-one to those who sign up with their phone numbers.

"Messaging is the most direct and personal channel there is, and there's a lot of value in that," said Matthew Peltier, founder and chief executive of Community. "On social media, you don't own that relationship. You are limited by the algorithms and short attention spans, and you're competing in feeds where there is a lot of noise."

Community said more than 3 billion text messages have been exchanged on its platform since its launch in 2019. More than 26 million consumers are signed up to receive its texts, it said.

Businesses and celebrities using the platform include the National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins, People magazine, WW (formerly Weight Watchers), actress Kerry Washington and star football quarterback Tom Brady.

Community shares the names, ages and locations of followers with its clients, which typically pay a monthly fee to use the platform based on usage, follower counts and other factors. Clients can then send messages broadly to all followers; to subgroups organized by attributes like age, location or interests; or to individuals.

The Penguins, which joined Community in October 2020, have about 21,000 followers on the platform across groups including fans, season-ticket holders and students. The team is using the platform to promote special offers on tickets, contests and giveaways, as well as to share news and provide updates on subjects such as changes to entry times for games, team executives said. It also is using the platform as an internal communications channel between employees.

A recent campaign for a student ticket deal garnered a 53.6% click-through rate, said Andi Perelman, vice president of digital for the Penguins.

"It feels more like you're talking to humans rather than screaming into the internet," added Ms. Perelman.

The broader trend toward consumer privacy played a role in Salesforce's investment in Community, said Sarah Franklin, chief marketing officer at the software company. Salesforce also is using Community for its own marketing purposes.

"As a CMO, when you look at the trends of cookies going away, more privacy compliance and security regulations on third-party data, you're looking for ways to build direct relationships," Ms. Franklin said.

Text messaging can feel more intrusive than reaching out to consumers in broad channels such as social media. Community tries to guard against that by relying on an opt-in model and promising not to sell user data to third parties, said Mr. Peltier, the CEO. Clients can't keep consumer data if they leave the platform or if a user "unfollows" them, according to the company.

Community intends to use the new funding to add features and recruit new customers.

"Over the course of 2020, we brought on everything from churches to restaurants, CPAs, yoga teachers, mindfulness coaches," Mr. Peltier said. "To keep up with that, we need to be able to build tech and product features."

Write to Sahil Patel at sahil.patel@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-09-21 0614ET

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