Getting from A to B: EverTrue CEO Brent Grinna on what it takes

From left: Brian Goldsmith of Bain Capital Ventures, co-founder
Eric Carlstrom (back row, white shirt), CFO Niall Hawkins, COO
Elisabeth Carpenter, CEO
Brent Grinna, VP of Product
Matt Sly, and
Mike Krupka of Bain Capital Ventures.
From left: Brian Goldsmith of Bain Capital Ventures, co-founder Eric Carlstrom (back row, white shirt), CFO Niall Hawkins, COO Elisabeth Carpenter, CEO Brent Grinna, VP of Product Matt Sly, and Mike Krupka of Bain Capital Ventures.

EverTrue, a startup that helps universities and prep schools connect with and raise money from alums, is announcing that it has raised some more cash of its own today. Bain Capital Ventures is leading an $8 million round of funding for the Boston company. That brings the total amount EverTrue has raised to $14.5 million. I asked founder and CEO Brent Grinna about what he thought were the keys to getting from its first major round of funding (often known as a Series A round) in March of 2013 to this second round (the B round) just about 18 months later.

Here’s an excerpt from Grinna’s explanation about some of the factors that he thinks helped persuade investors to pony up for the B round.

Talent – Jesse Bardo, Eric Carlstrom and I raised our Series A as aspiring first-time venture-backed founders who’d gotten our start during Techstars. We had ambition but lacked experience. The primary use of proceeds for our Series A was to surround ourselves with more experienced operators.

Elisabeth Carpenter joined us after helping lead Brightcove through IPO. Niall Hawkins joined as CFO after helping Where through its acquisition by PayPal. Our VP of Product Matt Sly had previously worked on Ray Ozzie’s team at Microsoft and joined us from Swipely. Mark Greene assumed engineering leadership after joining us from HubSpot. Jim Zimmerman joined our team after previously serving as Director of Development at the Middlesex School in Concord for 18 years. He was our second customer.

Deep Data – While raising our Series A, we told investors about the opportunity to build a data asset over time. While raising our Series B, we were able to demonstrate proprietary insights after analyzing over $3 billion of giving data across our platform. Our data insights are already helping our customers make better decisions and this will be a key area of investment in the next 12 to 18 months.

Referral Revenues – Referrals [from existing customers to new ones] have been a major business driver for us thus far. I was recently with a fundraising leader of an Ivy League university who received a text message from a peer asking about us. Boston University’s senior fundraising leader is proactively calling his friends and telling them about us. That is priceless.

Market Share – We have a long way to go to achieve “massive market share,” but we’re working with over 30 percent of the top 20 liberal arts colleges and have significant momentum with large national universities. We’ve quickly grown to over 250 customers in a market that has a reputation for being slow-moving. Our Series A was based on the potential to grow that market share via referrals and our Series B was based on proving it.

Layer Cake Product Strategy – Our first product served a narrow niche within the alumni relations sector. After spending countless hours with prospect research, annual fund and frontline fundraising leaders, we built a social donor management platform that delivers a clear and immediate return-on-investment for fundraising teams within higher education and across the broader non-profit sector. We’re currently in talks with leading healthcare, arts and human services organizations around Boston and we’ll be expanding more broadly with our Series B.

EverTrue has 40 employees; it was part of the Techstars Boston accelerator program in 2011.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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