With $4M in funding, VentureApp wants to be WhatsApp for your professional network

Boston-based VentureApp wants to make business messaging easier, by becoming the online and mobile chat hub for its users’ professional contacts and business needs. To do so, the company has raised $4 million in funding led by Accomplice, with investment from Fullstack Ventures, Boston Seed Capital and a whole slew of angels.

I first heard about VentureApp and was connected with founder Chase Garbarino more than a year ago. At that time, the company was focused on creating a marketplace of service providers for small businesses, particularly those serving the startup community.

A lot has changed since then: While some companies were taking advantage of the marketplace to find lawyers or other professional services, the most popular part of the offering was a messaging feature the company had built into its platform.

Rather than make sending messages just a feature of the larger platform, the folks at VentureApp decided to double down on messaging, since there currently is no really great app for chatting with people in your professional network.

To date, the services we use to communicate have mostly been divided between those we use for personal (Facebook) and professional (LinkedIn) connections. But while social messaging apps like Facebook’s Messenger or WhatsApp have grown quickly, the messaging features of LinkedIn have remained largely stagnant. Worse, because most communication that happens on LinkedIn is unsolicited messages from recruiters or other spam, it ends up mostly being ignored.

VentureApp wants to provide a new messaging platform for all your professional contacts. When you log in, you can connect your email contacts from Gmail, Google Apps or Outlook, as well as upload your LinkedIn contacts. And once that’s done, you can begin chatting with anyone in your professional network.

Unlike LinkedIn, where businesses and service providers send spammy messages all the time, VentureApp is hoping to help users avoid unsolicited messages. They can reach out to contacts and service providers, but service providers can’t reach out to them. And all chats are opt-in, so you must elect to accept a message from another user before a session begins.

While LinkedIn makes money by allowing people to search its network and send InMail, VentureApp is taking the opposite approach — it’s charging businesses who wish to have a presence on the platform to enable potential customers to reach out to them.

Garbarino founded VentureApp along with his Streetwise Media co-founders Kevin McCarthy and Greg Gomer, as well as Dailybreak founders Boris Revsin and Jared Stenquist. The company has quietly grown to a team of 30, with 200 paying companies hosting business hubs on the platform. With the funding, the team plans to continue adding features, including releasing a mobile messaging app (currently in beta).