Durable raises $18 million CAD as it looks to help service-based businesses run on autopilot

Startup claims six million sites have been built with the platform in its first year.

One month after soft-launching its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered website builder in the fall of 2022, Durable had already created 26,000 websites.

“I want to hit that 100,000 [and] million mark, and I think we have the opportunity to do that,” Durable founder and CEO James Clift told BetaKit at the time.

A year after that initial launch, Durable has significantly exceeded both targets. According to Clift, the platform has facilitated the creation of six million websites, and that’s not the only milestone the Vancouver-based startup has reached. 

Today, Durable revealed it has raised $18 million CAD ($14 million USD) in Series A financing, and is now looking to become a full-stack “business in a box” platform for service-based entrepreneurs.

“There’s a world that we’re trying to build where everyone with a skill can just translate that into a business in minutes.”

James Clift

“This goal of a fully autonomous business is really where we want to get to,” Clift said in a recent interview with BetaKit.

Durable’s Series A financing, which closed last month, was led by Spark Capital with participation from existing investors Torch Capital, Altman Capital, Dash Fund, South Park Commons, Infinity Ventures, and Soma Capital. To date, the startup has raised over $27 million CAD ($20 million USD).

Unlike e-commerce platforms, which generally support product-based businesses, Durable targets its platform exclusively to small service suppliers, such as personal trainers, landscapers, or freelancers. 

The website builder allows users to input information about their business, and in less than 30 seconds, Durable generates a website complete with a banner, list of services, elevator pitch, and more. From there, users can sign up to customize their new site.

Clift explained that Durable achieved six million website builds in one year by allowing access to the website builder without user sign-up, meaning these websites do not necessarily represent six million customers. Clift did not reveal exact figures to BetaKit, but a statement from the startup said “millions of business owners” are actively using the platform for website building, and Clift described the startup’s revenue as “material.”

The CEO said the startup also employed a “viral marketing” approach using platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram to generate social buzz for the product. Thanks to Clift’s own background in search engine optimization, he said the platform also experienced significant search traffic.

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The startup is monetizing its website builder through a freemium model. The free version offers a website with three pages, a subdomain, email support, standard stock images, and three monthly blog articles. Priced monthly subscriptions are available for additional features including more pages, custom domains, and premium widgets.

Durable may have gained recognition for its rapid website-building capability, but as the startup looks forward to the upcoming year, it is already expanding beyond website creation. Clift explained that to start a service business, entrepreneurs need to learn many skills outside of their core competency, such as accounting, taxes, marketing, and sales.

“There’s a world that we’re trying to build where everyone with a skill can just translate that into a business in minutes,” he added.

“Business-in-a-box” solutions refer to comprehensive packages that provide the necessary tools and services for establishing and operating a business. They are designed to streamline the setup process for new businesses or facilitate the operation of existing ones. The top Canadian player in this space is Shopify, though it generally targets e-commerce or online retail brands, whereas Durable targets its platform to small service suppliers.

In addition to the website builder, the startup currently offers customer relationship management software, an invoicing tool (in beta), an AI assistant to automate administrative tasks, and an AI-powered blog builder. In addition to its core services, the startup provides various resources for entrepreneurs, including guidance on starting a blog, tips for establishing a business in specific jurisdictions, and a range of website templates.

The current focus for Durable is building out the “back office” features that small suppliers need to run their business, such as marketing, bookkeeping, and insurance. The startup has also launched a “brand builder” in beta, which can generate logos, business cards, signage, and other assets using AI.

In the next year, Clift hopes to build out “step three” of the Durable product, which he described as “full automation.” This means when users turn it on, the platform will be automatically optimizing the entire business in the background, including making updates to the website, updating blog posts, creating marketing campaigns, getting new leads, and more.

The Series A investment will specifically be used to bring those products and capabilities to life, as well as expand the startup’s 15-person team. Clift said he expects to double the team’s size in the coming months, though he noted headcount growth is not an explicit goal for Durable. “I think the other advantage of building a software company now is that you can do a lot with a very small team,” he added.

Feature image courtesy of Durable.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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