Durable founder and CEO James Clift wants to make starting and running a solo business easier than working for someone else.

After building and selling his own tech companies, Clift has set his sights on helping other entrepreneurs get their start with Durable. “It’s the company I’ve always wanted to build,” Clift told Betakit in an interview.

“The bottom line is it’s still way too hard to start a business, specifically a service-based company.”
– James Clift, Durable

Clift has spent the past 15 years working as an entrepreneur, notching a pair of exits in his belt. Now, the CEO plans to apply what he’s learned to help others build their own companies with his new Vancouver-based “business-in-a-box” startup. “The bottom line is it’s still way too hard to start a business, specifically a service-based company,” said Clift.

Durable recently rolled out its free website builder, which uses generative artificial intelligence (AI) to help other entrepreneurs create company websites in three clicks and 30 seconds.

The startup’s platform, which it plans to fully launch early next year, also gives solo entrepreneurs access to a variety of other tools required for building and growing a service-based business, from customer relationship management to invoicing, automated reviews, analytics, and LLC registration.

Clift previously grew online resume and portfolio creator VisualCV to about four million users before exiting the business in 2020. Around the same time, he launched Holopod, a tool offering automated Slack status updates for remote teams that was purchased by Pulse earlier this year.

After departing those businesses amid a COVID-19 pandemic-fuelled boom in entrepreneurship, Clift saw an opportunity to build a solution to cater to solo entrepreneurs building service-based companies and make that process a little less painful. “There’s just this huge groundswell, particularly in the US, of people that are shrugging off these not-so-great jobs and starting their own thing,” said Clift.

Since its inception a year ago, Durable has raised $6.25 million USD in previously unannounced funding to date from a group of American investors that includes Altman Capital, Torch Capital, Dash Fund, Infinity Ventures, and South Park Commons.

This capital came across two SAFE rounds in close succession: $2 million in pre-seed financing from December 2021, and a $4.25 million March 2022 seed round led by Altman Capital. Durable has invested this funding in growing its now seven-person team and additional AI tools. According to Clift, the startup still has “a lot of runway left.”

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“We immediately understood the value of Durable, and were excited by the ambition to not only serve existing customers but create a new category,” said Altman Capital general partner Max Altman. “We believe in the vision that 10x more people will be business owners in the future, and Durable will help them get there.”

The sector Durable aims to serve features a lot of large players, from website building and management firms like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and GoDaddy, to e-commerce giants like Shopify and BigCommerce that provide a broader spectrum of services for launching and running independent businesses.

Cliff said he’s not concerned about the array of potential competitors Durable faces, citing the size and nature of the space. “It’s not a winner-take-all market,” said the CEO. “It’s like the biggest [total addressable market] in the world.”

Amid a crowded field focused more on facilitating the sales of goods online, Clift sees room for a tech company geared specifically towards entrepreneurs building service-based businesses. “We don’t do e-commerce, we don’t do brick and mortar, we don’t do retail,” said Clift. “We’re totally focused on service-based companies, so anyone who’s selling their hours for dollars or hours for projects.”

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Within this space, the CEO believes that providing “one really cohesive platform” that bundles together all of the capabilities an entrepreneur requires to launch and grow their business will ensure the company’s durability. According to Clift, providing these services with a unified service experience will differentiate Durable given that the customers the startup is targeting are used to having all of these products “stitched together.”

Durable “soft-launched” its website builder about a month ago with modest expectations. So far, by using AI to onboard people faster, Clift claims Durable has been able to acquire users more quickly than website-building incumbents. Clift says over 26,000 websites have already been built using Durable’s platform.

“The goalposts are obviously a lot higher now,” said Clift. “I want to hit that 100,000 [and] million mark, and I think we have the opportunity to do that.”

“I don’t want to build a $10 million SaaS business,” the CEO added. “I want to build a very large company that’s very impactful [and] that helps millions of people start their businesses.”

With files from Meagan Simpson.

Feature image courtesy Durable.

The post Durable aims to help solo entrepreneurs launch service-based businesses with AI first appeared on BetaKit.

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