Welcome raises $12 million to be the ‘Ritz-Carlton for event platforms’

On the heels of Hopin’s $125 million funding round, a newcomer in the virtual events space is gaining steam. Welcome, led by co-founder and CEO Roberto Ortiz, is positioning itself as the “Ritz-Carlton for virtual events,” Ortiz told me. Today, it’s announcing a $12 million Series A round led by Kleiner Perkins, with participation from Y Combinator, Kapor Capital and Webb Investor Network.

“There’s a land grab opportunity in virtual events,” Ortiz said. “What COVID has done is made 2030 2020. What was going to happen in 2030 happened in 2020. Everyone has been forced into this virtual environment.”

It’s that environment that led Ortiz and his co-founders to pivot from a startup that connected restaurants and food wholesalers to a virtual events startup. While today is the official launch date, Welcome has already hosted events for a handful of clients, including Brooks Winery, Freely in Hope and Elevate 2020.

Welcome features a control room for event producers, breakout rooms for attendees, a green room for speakers, white-label branding, networking, audience question & answer functionality and more. Welcome also offers event producers the ability to hold hybrid events that are both online and in-person.

Image Credits: Screenshot/Welcome demo for TechCrunch

Welcome is targeting enterprise customers for annual contracts in the five-figure range, Ortiz said. He didn’t disclose the exact pricing, but says Welcome is likely one of the more expensive virtual events platforms on the market today.

Although Welcome is currently going after the top end of the market, Ortiz said it will be easy to go down market — similar to how Tesla began as a super high-end brand that made its way to offering a more affordable car.

“Welcome is the perfect combination for Kapor Capital: cutting edge technology that is gap-closing or democratizing, a founder whose lived experience points in the direction of giving back, of making time for mentoring, of having the product used for good, and a founding team committed to building a diverse workforce and inclusive culture,” Kapor Capital Partner Freada Kapor Klein said in a statement to TechCrunch.

Obviously, the virtual events space has heated up thanks to the pandemic. But Welcome differentiates itself from its competitors by its ease of set up and quality of the final outcome.

“One person could throw an event that feels like an Apple keynote,” Ortiz said. “That can be done on our platform with one person. With any other platform, you’d need an AV crew to pull something off like that. Welcome gives you the ability to scale virtual events without compromising quality.”