The Inside Story of Bevy: From Startup Grind to Series C

Mary Cass
April 20, 2024

Every day, entrepreneurs come to Startup Grind to make connections and learn to scale companies. But it’s not every day that Startup Grind spins out its own technology as a new product, much less one that becomes a $325 million company.

Bevy was created to solve Startup Grind’s challenges with creating scalable and consistent events using tools like Meetup, Eventbrite and Mailchimp. But Startup Grind and Bevy founder Derek Andersen quickly realized these problems weren’t unique to Startup Grind, and other communities were looking for a similar solution. In 2017, Bevy was spun out as its own company, with a roster of customers that has since included Google, Snowflake, and Salesforce.

Last week, Bevy announced a Series C funding round to continue powering communities at scale. More than 40 investors participated in the round, including repeat investors like Accel, new investors from the community industry, and 25 influential Black voices in tech — a testament to the role of community in business today. Bevy has hosted over 100,000 events in 120 countries, with more than 30,000 event organizers using the platform.

How did Startup Grind’s technology become Bevy today? Below, the 9 original members of Bevy share their stories.

Derek met Bevy co-founder Joel Fernandes on a 99Designs design project in 2009. By 2014, the two were working together at Startup Grind to build the platform that would eventually become Bevy.

Joel Fernandes,
Bevy/Startup Grind Chief Engineer and Co-founder: The concept of Bevy came out of a need that Derek and I had back in the day with Startup Grind. Startup Grind grew organically. It was really just meetups that Derek was having on the side. Every now and then, he would get friends and brainstorm about their struggles with their companies.

Derek Andersen, Bevy/Startup Grind CEO and Co-founder: This whole thing started in a garage.

Joel Fernandes: Derek was almost at the point of giving up on Startup Grind. He was putting time and effort and money into these meetings, and not a lot of people were showing up. Eventually, he tried Meetup, which did actually work to get more people to the events. That was a small win, but it was still thrilling.

Derek inside the early Startup Grind office

Joel Fernandes:
Eventually people started to come back to events, and they wanted to host them in their own cities. We were always concerned about our reputation in a new city. We want to make sure they keep things consistent with Startup Grind. So we looked for tools that would allow us to scale the community, but there was nothing out there.

Each Startup Grind event on Meetup or Eventbrite had to be created manually. As Startup Grind grew, the team began to look for a better solution.

Joel Fernandes
: It was hard to get more adoption and more cities. At the time, we were creating the events for these directors manually to make sure that branding was consistent. So I built a platform on Wordpress that connected MailChimp, Eventbrite, and Meetup and all the tools that we used to grow Startup Grind in one place. That made a big difference. It allowed us to scale really fast.

Alex Bendig, Bevy CTO, and Co-founder: I joined Startup Grind at the very end of 2014. At that point, it was just Joel and me on the engineering side. Joel had already built the product twice. The original platform was WordPress-based, but it was built piecemeal using different systems. The size of the organization just simply didn’t fit that anymore.

Derek Andersen: The problems kept getting bigger and bigger. We decided we needed to start fresh and build from the ground up, instead of building on top of other things. We estimated it would take at least a year to do, but that would pay off over the next 10 years for Startup Grind.

Alex Bendig: Derek and Joel didn’t intentionally set out to build Startup Grind. It grew very organically. When that happens, you just add what tools you need at the time. That’s what led to this patchwork system, which we have seen with countless other communities over the years. We wanted a cohesive system that allowed us to manage a massive community at scale.

Joel Fernandes: This was still just me building something out of requests from Startup Grind directors. So it was not a polished product, it was just a proof of concept. Now that we have the proof of concept, we decided to start from scratch and do it right. Let’s make Startup Grind work.

Alex Bendig: We had started onboarding Startup Grind directors in late 2015 when the platform wasn’t ready. The feedback at the time was useful but difficult. At this point, there were just a few engineers on the team, including myself and Joel. But it was a tiny team.

Jamal Neufeld, Software Engineering Lead, Bevy: When I joined Startup Grind, I was interested in working in a company that was focused on community. The whole idea of the product was born in the middle of an active community that I think at that point had a few hundred chapters around the world, several thousand events happening every year, and growing very rapidly. How do we make it so that Startup Grind can keep growing this community without all the pain points?

Jamal Neufeld: The first time I met Derek, Joel, and Alex, they flew over to Toronto so we could all get to know each other. I was the first engineer outside of the founders that were hired. We spent a week together and saw the Wu-Tang Clan on the very first day. That was quite an introduction to the team.

Derek Andersen
: In September 2015, the four of us got together in person in Toronto for a week to try to figure out how we could get the product shipped by the end of the year. In that room, the whole thing could have blown up. We still had so much to do, but over the next four months, we built an incredible amount of the product to hit that deadline.

Bevy’s first four employees meet in Toronto

Marcela Yapura
, Lead Designer, Bevy: I joined Startup Grind in 2015. At that time, the HQ team was so small. So I worked side-by-side with Derek, Joel, Alex, and Jamal. I was the only designer. So it was exciting times for a designer being able to design something from scratch.

Neda Morrar, VP of Development and Strategy, Bevy: Derek asked me to join HQ in 2016 after the Startup Grind Global Conference. I was working as a Chapter Director in the city of Ramallah, thinking I was alone in a silo. Suddenly I was meeting 200 chapter directors from all over the world who are doing the same thing. All of a sudden, it made sense. You’re part of this huge movement across the world, educating and inspiring and helping entrepreneurs.

Alex Bendig: The Startup Grind HQ team was really small. From the outside, it’s hard to believe that this team was organizing this big network of hundreds of different groups around the world. The philosophy of empowering individual groups to self-manage using an overall framework was fairly new.

Inside an early Bevy office

The first official version of Bevy was scheduled to launch in 2016, in time for the Startup Grind Global Conference.

Alex Bendig: You usually talk about a minimum viable product. Well, our first use case was a global community. The minimum product for that community really needed to have a lot.

Derek Andersen: You’re beta testing with one of the largest communities in the world. Which is great, in some ways, but terrifying and horrific in other ways.

Alex Bendig: With any product, you never feel like you’re ready. But you have to ship it out anyway.

The Bevy team at Startup Grind Global, 2016

Shortly after the platform launched, the Bevy team realized the demand for this product went beyond Startup Grind.

Derek Andersen: In early 2016, I started showing it to other people. The first person I showed it to ended up becoming our first customer, Aging 2.0. As someone who’s built a lot of products that nobody wanted to use, there was enough positive feedback that said to me that something feels different here.

Joel Fernandes: It was very clear that the struggles we had with managing and scaling Startup Grind were very common in communities. Even if you had the budget, there was nothing out there you could use to scale community.

Derek Andersen: When we demoed the product, a lightbulb would go off in the heads of people that had the problem that we had. The product felt ahead of its time. Which surprised us, because we only built it for ourselves. If Startup Grind was the only company that was successful with Bevy, that would have been enough.

Alex Bendig: In 2016, we had signed a couple of customers but the conversations weren’t super straightforward. There was no website and no marketing materials. We would just show prospects the Startup Grind dashboard and say, “Here’s what we are doing. You should do the same thing.” It’s not a very straightforward story. There was a feeling that we were in between things.

Jacob Hamblin, Software Engineer, Bevy: I joined Startup Grind in May of 2016. We had a tool that enabled community organizers to hold white-labeled events and create them quickly. When I joined we had just gotten our first customer other than ourselves, Aging 2.0. But we quickly had to figure out how we could separate the tool from our company so it could be useful. How could we control the styling of the product on a per-client basis and manage multiple databases aside from Startup Grind?

Though Bevy was beginning to attract its own customers, it was still built for and within Startup Grind. That changed when a major client signed on in 2017: Atlassian.

Joel Fernandes: That Atlassian deal was a huge validation for us. Here is this company that’s huge and they’re making this bet. We didn’t even have a name for the company at that time. It was still the Startup Grind platform. For a company like Atlassian to switch from a tool that had already raised $15 million in funding, when we hadn’t raised any funding? There’s definitely something here.

Derek Andersen: When we realized that what Bevy was doing with Atlassian diverged from the mission of Startup Grind, we knew immediately that we should set up a new company. But there’s no playbook for how to spin out a company out of another small company. Nobody could teach you how to do that.

Chris Aikman, Senior Software Engineer and Team Lead, Bevy: I joined in January of 2017. So that was six or seven months before Bevy actually formed. I joined as an engineer, and Atlassian had just signed on to use our new platform that was just built out.

Derek Andersen: Bevy was like a golden anchor that was taking Startup Grind down. Startup Grind had always been profitable, but now we’re making an investment in Bevy’s product and the investment is not helping Startup Grind anymore. We were burning more and more cash every single month.

Bevy’s first pitch deck

Derek Andersen: In May 2017, in a moment of desperation, I emailed 15 former Startup Grind speakers and explained that we were raising $1 million to spin out a new company. We were going to value the company at $10 million dollars, a number I made up. But within 24 hours, I had heard back from some of our initial investors. Our whole outlook changed.

For the next three years, Bevy continued to grow as more companies signed on for community programs.

Alex Bendig: In 2017, just around the time when we signed Duolingo as a client, I started feeling confident enough to reach out to Russell about joining us. That was a turning point for me when Bevy started looking promising enough that I would recommend someone quit their job and join us.

Russell Bevers, Software Engineer, Bevy: I think I was actually the first employee on Bevy that didn’t work for Startup Grind. My big criteria was they had to have at least two customers. I think Bevy had three or four when I joined, and Duolingo had just come on board. So I was excited to work on building stuff that cool companies want. That’s a good sign.

Chris Aikman: We were always community-oriented from the start. On the engineering team, when I first started, we always focused on community and helping each other out, trying to do the best work that we could and learn together and help each other grow. That was something that carried over from Startup Grind.

Jamal Neufeld: I think some of our competitors would just throw software at a client. Bevy has always seen ourselves as invested in our client success and a part of their community. That’s been a really beneficial part of the company’s approach to how we work with our clients.

When COVID-19 hit in early 2020, Bevy saw its customer shifting to virtual events. The company quickly pivoted, raising a $15 million Series B round to scale.

Neda Morrar: Before COVID hit, Derek would say, “Over my dead body are we doing virtual events.” But as soon as COVID hit, he understood that we needed to pivot immediately.

Russell Bevers: The moment we launched Bevy Virtual, there were people on board trying it. We were focused on just getting people together. And that’s where I think the community story was powerful, because it wasn’t so much about selling from day one. It was about taking these communities and people that needed that support and connection and making them active again.

Chris Aikman: The things that we did with such a small amount of people are incredible. There’s no other way of putting that. Making this virtual platform and shipping something in four or five months, and we are continuing to sell this just under a year later. You don’t see that.

Today, Bevy has a customer list that includes some of the world’s biggest enterprise companies, and the backing of some of the biggest names in tech and venture capital. But it hasn’t strayed from its roots in community and bringing the Startup Grind mission to life.

Alex Bendig: At Bevy, we talk about community all the time. So it’s pretty nice to see outside validation and others actually starting to see that value themselves.

Russell Bevers: This funding round shows that we’re providing value not only to new customers, but that’s competitive enough with all the other people that jumped in on the COVID boat.

Chris Aikman: With building out the virtual platform we’ve built out in such a short time, and people are buying us now for that? Imagine what we can do now that we have more time to think about things. And when things start going back to in-person, imagine what can happen around that.

Neda Morrar: Previous funding rounds were not like this. They had one or two companies. The energy and amount of time and effort to talk to all these people is one thing, but to get them on board and invest is something else. Hopefully, this will be what future funding rounds look like. This is what it should look like.

Jacob Hamblin: Over the past six months I think we’ve matured quite a bit as an organization. I think we’re adding the right processes while promoting ownership and individual impact. I’m excited to see where we go!

Derek Andersen: We didn’t have a playbook. There’s no right or wrong. It’s just choose your own adventure. Our adventure has proven out to be 100% the right choice — both for Startup Grind and for Bevy.

Joel Fernandes: Looking back at our Startup Grind origins, it’s great. We’re not just building software that we think works. We have the expertise that it should be this way. At the core, the community aspect of it, we know this is how it should be. That’s not something you can buy, regardless of how much money you have.

Derek Andersen: Splitting Bevy out from Startup Grind was hard, but it was the right thing to do. We’re all invested in each others’ success. Today, Bevy isn’t just a software provider for Startup Grind; it’s a sister company, and a stakeholder. We didn’t decrease the value of Startup Grind, we just created something new that had its own value. And now it’s grown really big.

Neda Morrar: There’s still a lot to do in terms of scaling and building out our roadmap. Now that we’re officially growing and scaling, it’s making sure those processes are really perfected.

Alex Bendig: I think we are at a really exciting spot. On one hand, we’ve been working on this problem for years. But at the same time, it feels like we’re at the very beginning.

Marcela Yapura: I’m thrilled that Bevy is putting more attention on diversity and inclusion. It’s something that makes me proud to be a part of the company, and it’s the right thing to do.

Jamal Neufeld: Looking at other companies, it seems like it’s often hard to hold on to what made a company special as a startup. Seeing this funding announcement and the way it was announced to the company with the people who are investing in Bevy and our diversity goals, that to me is just validation that Bevy’s invested in this community-first culture and invested in the values that we’ve held since the beginning.

Mary Cass
Senior Content Manager at Bevy & CMX
April 20, 2024

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