Supportive Social Audio Network Startup Quilt Raises $3.5M
Clubhouse may have grabbed most of the headlines, but social audio startups are appearing and expanding rapidly as more people discover the concept. Quilt, a social audio platform emphasizing wellness, has closed a $3.5 million seed round led by Mayfield Fund.
Quilt began in 2017 as a home-based co-working space platform where people could offer their homes as communal workspaces; WeWork meets AirBnB but with an eye on building communities. 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic made that concept impossible, and Quilt founder Ashley Sumner shifted to ad-hoc virtual meet-ups on Zoom before deciding to develop a Quilt social audio platform. Tests began over the summer before the Quilt platform officially launched as an iOS app in January, with an Android version in the works. Like Clubhouse, Quilt lets users create rooms for audio conversations, with the host adding a brief description of the topic and choosing listeners in the room to join as speakers. The host can invite listeners to be speakers, and there is a shared calendar if people want to alert other users about rooms they plan to host in the future.
“More personal, real and revealing than a tweet or post, and less obtrusive and image-conscious than photo or video, audio’s atomic unit is the intimate conversation. Which is of course the perfect antidote to social media’s worst vices. In the hands of the right founder, audio (and perhaps only audio) can be harnessed to create a new kind of social media experience: authentic, supportive, informative, hilarious, and essential,” Mayfield partner Rishi Garg, who is joining Quilt’s board, wrote in a blog post about the deal. “[D]espite the company needing to manually onboard every user, Quilters immediately made the platform their own, creating five-hour brunches, new weekly bathing rituals, psychic readings, group coaching, and dance parties, all to support their evolving identities as they explored this crazy new thing: a platform that always leaves you feeling better than when you came in.”
According to Crunchbase, Quilt has raised $8.3 million in total, including $3.9 million from Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund in 2018. Mayfield was joined by other investors, including Sima Sistani, the CEO of Houeparty, Freestyle VC’s Jenny Lefcourt, and Upside Partnership’s Kent Goldman and Christina Hunt.
Social Audio Speaking
Quilt is carving out a specific market segment and is already racking up users, but it will have a lot of company in the near future, not just the headline act of Clubhouse. As Voicebot founder Bret Kinsella has explained, Clubhouse is making a splash, but social audio is going to be a major trend for at least a while. Twitter Spaces, a social audio feature for Twitter’s mobile app, is undergoing beta tests right now, leveraging Twitter’s huge user base and collected features, plus the fact that it exists on Android and not just iOS, as opposed to Quilt and Clubhouse. And there are plenty more social audio spaces in the wings. Facebook is reportedly working on a feature similar to Clubhouse, although there is no real information on it. And Mark Cuban has announced plans for a social audio platform called Fireside. And natural language processing with AI may be a key element in how rival platforms distinguish themselves.
“As social audio content rises, it will be a new channel for assessing sentiment from spoken conversations which will include even richer data even if the reach is smaller,” Kinsella explained “[W]hen we think beyond assistants to voice AI technology in general, I can see the rise in all sorts of audio as directly related in a more narrow sense. Voice AI will be in a support role instead of as the key driver of the social audio space, but that means it is another avenue for the industry to grow.”