Andrea Volpini, CEO and co-founder of WordLift, an AI-powered SEO tool that does the heavy lifting to grow organic search traffic, recently chatted with the GetLatka team about the company’s progress since their last meeting 18 months ago. Volpini shared how WordLift is succeeding in a crowded marketplace, why he chose to give up debt equity instead of taking on debt, and how WordLift increased customers by 50% since their last conversation.
- Team of 20: 13 core, 7 freelancers. Includes 7 tech, 6 client success, 5 sales, 2 marketing
- $1.8m ARR
- 1,166 subscription customers, up from 705 YAG
Modern SEO focus increases customers from 705 to 1,166
According to Volpini, what makes WordLift unique is that it uses knowledge graphs to automate SEO. Latka asked Volpini to explain knowledge graphs. The CEO responded, “A knowledge graph is a flexible data structure that Google can read. It’s the starting point for AI strategy. It provides the data behind a website, so Google knows how to index it,” adding, “WordLift represents the movement from traditional to modern SEO, where the AI does the heavy lifting.”
WordLift broke $1m run rate 18 months ago
When Volpini and Latka last met, WordLift had just broken its $1m run rate. Andrea and his partner owned 80% of the business and were profitably banking $20,000 per month. They even declined a $5m M&A offer.
WordLift closed $800,000 funding round at $5m valuation, giving up 15% equity
After turning down the M&A offer, Volpini shared that he and his partner decided to close a deal at the end of last year for $800,000 in funding, giving up roughly 15% equity. A somewhat dejected Latka asked the CEO why, as the company was profitable and growing. Volpini indicated they needed more cash to grow and are using the funds for sales, marketing, and technology. “We are in a competitive space, and we need to acquire customers quickly and invest in talent,” he explained.
Why choose equity over debt?
When Latka asked why give up equity instead of taking on debt, Volpini revealed that it was a personal choice and reiterated that he and his partner still hold a controlling interest. “We can easily get debt. Banks are looking for us. But it’s not just cash. It’s also the system,” explained the co-founder. Volpini shared that they partnered with Primo Ventures, where he believes they can get help with connections, structure, and systems as the company looks to scale to $10m, $100m, and more. “We wanted a VC to help us grow,” summarized the CEO. When Latka pressed further on why not debt, Volpini shared a past experience when running an agency. “Our company was doing well. $5m in revenue, but $2m in debt to help with cash flow. As we grew, the debt grew, and at some point, I decided I didn’t want to carry debt anymore,” revealed Volpini.
28% profit last quarter, low CAC vs. LTV
According to Volpini, WordLift finished last quarter with a 28% profit margin. The CAC of their average user is under $200, with a payback period of 1.5 months. The co-founder acknowledges that enterprise CAC is higher cost due to its high-touch nature. While high-paying enterprise clients spend $300,000 per year, the average customer spends $130 per month. Volpini has calculated their average customer’s LTV as 25 months.
$130 per month based on number of URLs and content type, targeting 5X increase
Volpini revealed that their pricing levels are based on the number of URLs tracked, as well as datasets needed for each URL. Each one gets its own knowledge graph that automatically marks up the schema for Google. Their goal is to 5X the business value on each site for the customer to ensure customer satisfaction. The average customer signs up for 3-10 websites of varying content types.
Inbound marketing and SEO initiatives drive revenue to $1.8m ARR
When asked about tactics to drive new customers and revenue, Volpini first mentioned inbound marketing and, of course, SEO initiatives. He indicated that these tactics, along with lead gen from events, were supporting their business growth. The CEO added that they are looking to increase their ad spend to accelerate growth further, tapping into their VC funds to do so. He confirmed they are still sitting on nearly $600,000 of their initial funding. “Part of those funds are also for hiring talent. That process is strategic and slow,” admitted the co-founder.
WordLift’s team increases from 15 to 20
Since their last conversation, Volpini increased the total team size from 15 to 20. He shared that 13 of the 20 are core staff, and the rest are freelance contractors across all functions. The global team is all remote, consisting of roughly 7 tech people, 6 client success, 5 sales, and 2 marketing. When asked where he’s based, Volpini replied, “Rome.”
Based in Europe with eyes on the US
Volpini shared that he believes WordLift will again look for VC help when moving into the US market. Without specifically pitching, Latka shared that he believes WordLift could do great things in the US market and envisions it as a $100m+ company. “I’d love to help you in the US. Founder Path brings a lot of value to companies we partner with, but I don’t want to make this a pitch,” noted Latka.
Famous 5 with Andrea Volpini
WordLift co-founder and CEO Andrea Volpini said his favorite book he’s currently reading is by Kurt Vonnegut. “I forgot how much I love him,” shared Andrea. He noted that he enjoys following many CEOs and companies within his sector but is particularly fond of Rand Fishkin, noting that he got out of the sector but is very friendly. Andrea’s favorite tools for building WordLift include Trello and Zapier. He sleeps 6 hours per night but aspires to hit 8. Andrea, 45, is married with two children. He wishes that at 20, he would have known, “Once you set a goal, you can achieve the goal. You don’t need to go through the drama.” Although he quipped, “even if I had been told, I probably wouldn’t have listened.”