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Podium: Online Reviewing, Simplified

I don’t order anything, eat anywhere, or patronize any business until I’ve read at least five online reviews. And I’m not alone. 92% of consumers regularly read online reviews before making a purchasing decision. And if my fellow readers are anything like me, they have real hesitations about spending money on any product or service with poor reviews. That’s a problem for a lot of businesses.

While a lot of us read online reviews, not a lot of us write online reviews, unless we’re displeased. The average satisfied customer isn’t going to take the time to write a review of, say, their internet provider, but the annoyed customer is often anxious to vent via Yelp, Google reviews, Facebook, etc. So online review averages often skew lower than the opinion of most customers.

Eric Rea, cofounder and CEO of Podium, wanted to help his dad solve this problem. As the proprietor of a tire shop, his dad struggled with a 2.5 star average. “We like to help our users get reviews from a broader base of their customers,” Rea says. So he and his cofounder Dennis Steele set to work building a simple tool that allowed businesses to get more customers to leave reviews. They grew that tool into Podium.

“We are a platform that helps businesses get reviews on sites that matter,” Rea says. “We are really good at reducing the friction for customers leaving reviews.” Podium sends a text message to customers asking them to rate their experience, then matches a customer’s review to the site that customer is most likely to use. The entire review process takes about one minute. Podium then pulls consumer reviews into their cloud-based platform, consolidates those reviews, and makes it simple for businesses to manage those reviews.

When Rea and Steele started Podium three years ago, they found that many businesses didn’t even know they had Google reviews. “People didn’t realize how important reviews are,” Rea explains. But once those businesses understood what a positive or negative impact reviews can have, they were anxious to implement Podium’s service.

Podium just hired their 110th employee — 18 months ago they had seven. Since June, Podium has hit $1M in new sales revenue every month. And they’ve grown on relatively little capital. “We’re a really product focused company,” Rea says. He explains that as a company they only spend money on things that will improve the customer experience. “We’ve been really capital efficient,” Rea says.

Rea claims that he and Steele didn’t really know what they were doing in the beginning and had to figure out a lot on the fly. But they soon found help in a stellar leadership team. “Everyone has been or could be a CEO, at a much larger company,” Rea says. “We’re lucky to have great people working with us.”

“We want to help businesses have a better relationship with their clients,” Rea says. “We want to help define and shape the modern relationship between businesses and their customers.”