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Community building at scale: Orbiit raises $2.7M, LAUNCHub Ventures also joins the round

Orbiit founders
Image credit: Orbiit
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According to First Round’s State of Startup survey (conducted in 2019), communities are extremely important on founders’ agendas, with nearly 80% of founders reporting community building as an important aspect of their businesses, while 28% describing it as critical. Meanwhile, the global pandemic has significantly sharpened the need for online networking. As a result, startups that enable the development of online communities are gaining attention from investors. 

New-York based Orbiit, a company that automates community interactions with algorithmic matching and data analytics and has a Bulgarian co-founder onboard has just closed a $2.7M round in which Sofia-based LAUNCHub Ventures participated. The round was led by the early-stage fund Bread and Butter Ventures and joined by the community-minded VCs High Alpha Capital and Company Ventures, as well as the previous angel and venture investors Founders Fund, Acceleprise and Houghton Street Ventures. 

Founded by Bilyana Freye (CEO), who has spent half of her life in Bulgaria, and Luuk Derksen (CTO), the B2B networking platform aims to ensure a more participatory future for communities around the world. With the raised funds Orbiit will expand its product and engineering teams. 

“Majority of startups and more mature businesses nowadays are focusing a lot of efforts on building a community around their brand or product. Until now – it was the job of the community manager to manually create those connections between people, but this takes too much time and is unscalable. Solutions like Orbiit solve that need and can automate the matchmaking between community members and create valuable new connections,” tell us Stephane Gantchev, Partner at LAUNCHub Ventures.

“The investment in Orbiit is a great fit to our fund’s strategy to bet on founders originating from our core region – Southeast Europe, who are currently based in bigger startup hubs. Bilyana – one of the 2 co-founders is Bulgarian by origin, but lived for a long time in the UK and US. We know her and we’ve been following the progress of her startup for a while. Founders like Bilyana are aware of the advantages of having part of the team based in Bulgaria – actually, we found Orbiit’s first hire – a data scientist while we were finalizing the deal! So, for sure, Orbiit will continue growing the team in Bulgaria,” continues Gantchev.

From job-shadowing to community-building

Orbiit started under the name of Hoppin back in 2018 as the first job shadowing marketplace for peer-to-peer matching across businesses and industries. It allowed users to see first-hand what the typical day of CEOs, real estate brokers, financial specialists, and investors looks like by being their virtual shadow. However, as opportunities increased, the founding team decided to pivot and focus more on the community-building element. And that is how Orbiit came into being to solve the problem of ineffective meetings. 

Today’s AI-powered Orbiit platform uses ML to help people network better by matching them according to their goals and experiences. With this, it allows community managers to curate 1:1 conversations and allow for more effective knowledge-sharing and do that in less time thanks to automation. Moreover, Orbiit provides businesses and organizations with real-time personalized insights on the preferences and goals of their communities. On the other hand, in order to ensure the best UX by making it convenient for the end-users to work their way around the platform, Orbiit does not require them to create accounts and automatically sends all links and forms in their mail inboxes.    

The value of using AI for tailored connections

What differentiates Orbiit from other online matchmaking platforms is that it is the only platform able to offer curated connections at scale and can serve both communities of up to a hundred and more than a thousand people. Instead of using randomized models to create connections, Orbiit’s algorithms ensure that the conversation that will result from connecting people will be meaningful and valuable for the users. 

According to Freye, the value-added that Orbiit brings comes from the fact that the tailored 1:1 connection helps members to have conversations about difficult topics and allow themselves to be vulnerable and share advice and learnings with each other. As of now, users of the platform are startup and VC communities such as True Ventures, private networking groups including Dreamers & Doers, and customer communities such as the CFO community that is led by Spendesk.

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Etien Yovchev is a co-founder and Chief Editor at The Recursive, online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. He has told the stories of over 200 ventures from the region and aims to provide high-quality constructive reporting on the progress of the SEE innovation ecosystem, making sure that the stories of promising local founders reach global audiences. Etien holds a MSc degree in Innovation Management from RSM, Erasmus University Rotterdam and has more than 4 years of experience in the commercialization of new products, having worked with many early-stage companies and a few corporate innovation departments across Bulgaria, The Netherlands, and the USA.