How 2 female founders of a ‘party-planning startup’ overcame investor skepticism to raise $20 million

May 23, 2023, 12:59 PM UTC
Partiful cofounder and CEO Shreya Murthy says partying is an evergreen consumer behavior.
Stuart Isett/Fortune

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Canadian and Italian prime ministers bickered publicly at the G7 summit over LGBTQ rights, Tubi has been accused of gender discrimination, and parties are a big market for this cofounder. Happy Tuesday!

– Party time. Shreya Murthy cofounded Partiful in 2020. In a way, she had the worst timing—and the best timing.

The tech platform helps people plan events. Rather than rounding up emails, Partiful hosts send a link to their invited guests, who enter their phone numbers to receive communications via SMS.

Of course, 2020 was a tough time for partying. Although in-person events slowed for a while, pandemic lockdowns made people appreciate the value of real-life social connections, Murthy told me at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit last week. “In the past, we almost took socializing for granted,” the Partiful CEO said. “And that’s really changed.”

But over the past three years, Partiful has become popular with Gen Z users, and its branding leans into that audience. The startup has used the taglines “[parties] for hot people” and it was christened the “least cringe” way to get people to go to your party by the New York Times.

But other cohorts are quickly adopting it as well. Chipotle recently partnered with Partiful to run a Cinco de Mayo promotion, though Murthy says Partiful isn’t trying to attract corporate users. (She notes that party hosts don’t gain direct access to their attendees’ contact information, making the platform incompatible with business marketing.)

Partiful cofounder and CEO Shreya Murthy says partying is an evergreen consumer behavior.
Stuart Isett/Fortune

Another early challenge was investors’ reluctance to back two young female founders with a “party-planning startup,” Murthy remembers. (Her cofounder is CTO Joy Tao.) “Very few people took us seriously,” she says.

But investors have come around, too, won over by Partiful’s growth and society’s renewed appreciation for in-person connection following COVID lockdowns. Partiful raised a $20 million Series A round last year from backers including Andreessen Horowitz and Initialized Capital.

“Parties are not this frivolous waste of time. They’re how we build community. There’s something electrifying about being in a room with people,” Murthy says. “It’s not a new consumer behavior—it goes back to our days of forming into tribes. Something that has the potential to touch the lives of everyone—yeah, that’s a big market.”

Emma Hinchliffe

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