This AI Tool Generates $2 Million+ In Annual Revenue

This AI Tool Generates $2 Million+ In Annual Revenue

Today, pretty much everyone involved in search engine optimization recognizes the power of structured data. But when Andrea Volpini and his co-founders launched WordLift in 2017, that wasn’t the case. One of the first challenges they had to overcome was the fact that most people in their target audience didn’t even know why they needed WordLift.

As Andrea shares in this interview, those early days were a struggle, but the company was profitable 18 months after launching. In 2023, WordLift generated €2,100,000 (about $2.25 million) in revenue. See how Andrea and the WordLift team grew this AI tool to become a leader in the space.

πŸ‘‡ Key Takeaways

  • In the early days, WordLift had to educate the market about the need for the product.
  • A chance encounter at a conference led to a major breakthrough.
  • Andrea believes “you need to fall in love with” your work.

Overview

Business Name: WordLift
Website URL: https://wordlift.io/
Founders: Andrea Volpini, David Riccitelli, and Francesco Scavelli
Business Location: Online (Italy)
Year Started: 2017
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 29

How much revenue and profit does the business generate?

We generated €2,100,000 with a 32% profit margin, as measured by EBITDA. 

Tell us about yourself and WordLift.

My journey with WordLift began with a passion for innovation and a commitment to transforming content publishing platforms. It all started through research and development activities fueled by national and European funding from the MICO EU FP7 Research Project and IKS EU FP7 Research Project.

Back in the early 2000s, my involvement in creating content management systems (Web CMS) for complex platforms set the foundation for what would later become WordLift. Intrigued by the potential of Semantic Web and Linked Open Data standards, my team and I were at the forefront of implementation.

The turning point came in 2011 when search engines started adopting structured data and principles of the Semantic Web. This prompted us to shift gears and develop the prototypes for a semantic editor, laying the groundwork for what WordLift is today.

Since our inception in 2017, WordLift has achieved significant milestones. Our journey has been marked by continuous progress from product development and team growth to increased revenue and strategic technology partnerships. We were recognized among the top 20 startups in Italy for artificial intelligence by Repubblica newspaper in 2023, validating our dedication to innovation.

WordLift has become a trusted partner for renowned enterprises globally, including names like Coca-Cola, Enel, EssilorLuxottica, Raptive, Farfetch, TheLevelGroup, The Financial Times, and ZoomInfo. Their success stories underscore our ability to drive businesses forward.

WordLift Website

How does WordLift make money?

We are a SaaS company offering software solutions bundled into a subscription plan. Subscriptions offer users access to WordLift’s AI-powered SEO tools, which help improve website visibility, organic traffic, and user experience by leveraging structured data and knowledge graphs.

To SaaS customers, we also offer professional services that include personalized assistance and expert guidance in implementing WordLift’s technology to enhance search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

For larger organizations with specific needs, WordLift undertakes enterprise projects, delivering customized solutions that integrate with the company’s existing technology stack and business processes, thereby driving value through improved search performance and data insights.

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

When search engines began to adopt structured data and some of the principles of the Semantic Web in 2011, the team started to develop the first prototypes for a semantic editor that would later become WordLift.

How and when did you launch the business?

WordLift was launched with the vision of making the web more understandable and navigable through the use of artificial intelligence and semantic technologies. The idea was to harness the power of AI to enhance search engine optimization (SEO) by structuring data in a way that search engines could easily interpret. This would improve organic traffic and user experience.

The business was officially launched in 2017 after a period of development and testing to ensure that the technology could deliver tangible benefits to website owners and content creators.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

We have been able to build a platform thanks to EU research funding. We also funneled the consultancy work we did at that time into the development of WordLift.

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

WordLift’s first clients were pioneers in the digital space who recognized the potential of AI and structured data to transform their online presence. Through a combination of networking, showcasing the technology at industry events, and demonstrating the value of WordLift’s services, the company was able to attract early adopters. 

These initial clients played a crucial role in refining the platform, providing valuable feedback, and helping to spread the word about the benefits of semantic SEO and WordLift’s capabilities.

What was your first year in business like?

The other day, I was asked to review the invoices we sent in the very first months. I remember I  hired Silvia as employee number one. It was the first contract, which started in January 2017, immediately after WordLift was incorporated. Silvia led the marketing effort; we began by building the community around the research work we were doing then.

Our first three clients came from abroad: one from Germany and two from the US. Our customer base has always been international. The first innovators willing to test our solutions came from the US. Still today, over 70% of the revenues from our top clients are US-based.

Making the first 10-20 subscriptions was challenging in the first months. We had raised a seed investment from another SEO tool but became profitable after the first 18 months. This comes with sacrifices for everyone but a tremendous amount of satisfaction.

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

We began operating in the vibrant WordPress ecosystem, where we found a growing and diverse community. WordLift, like most innovative solutions, has to invest in building awareness around the problem it’s trying to solve. In 2017, very few people could understand the potential of a linked graph for marketing automation.

Naturally, you grow the business by educating the market. Back then, like today, we took outbound marketing seriously and devoted ourselves to helping businesses learn about structured data, linked data, and the interaction of semantic data with artificial intelligence.

We also attended The Next Web conference in Amsterdam in the same year. While sitting at a table, I happened to explain Semantic SEO principles and met the enthusiasm of the Editor in Chief of TNW at that time. We became partners with them the same year and started testing our technology on one of the most exciting technical news outlets worldwide. Events are tremendous occasions for startups to gain traction and for us, they always worked like charm.  

Tell us about your team.

Our diverse team counts on (in different capacities) approximately 25 individuals from 14 different nationalities, each contributing a unique blend of expertise. Our team includes SEO experts, data scientists, developers, project managers, and content specialistsβ€”all dedicated to simplifying intricate data and driving business growth through continuous innovation.

The WordLift Team
The WordLift team. Photo courtesy of Andrea Volpini.

What are your future plans for the business?

As the CEO and co-founder of WordLift, our vision for the future revolves around three key pillars:

1. Industry Leadership: WordLift is committed to becoming a frontrunner in crafting knowledge bases tailored for seamless interaction with intelligent agents. This entails developing a semantic data layer compatible with diverse AI systems, extending beyond conventional search engines.

2. Open-Source Advancement: We firmly believe in fostering open-source technologies within the AI domain. Sharing our technological advancements globally is integral to responsible AI innovation, contributing to the growth of a robust and inclusive AI ecosystem.

3. Business Empowerment: WordLift aims to be the go-to solution for digital marketers, SEOs, web developers, e-commerce brands, and publishers seeking innovative ways to integrate generative AI into their content. Our technology empowers businesses to create captivating, discoverable content, aligning with the preferences of generative search engines and digital assistants.

In alignment with these goals, we’ve set specific commercial targets. By the end of 2024, we plan to double our revenue, with a focus on product development for content optimization by Q2 of the same year. The company will undergo a strategic restructuring, including the crucial hiring of key figures for product and sales within the first six months of the upcoming year.

How much traffic does your website receive, and what are your primary sources?

In the last quarter of 2023, our website experienced robust traffic, recording nearly 100,000 sessions, engaging 80,000 users, and garnering 145,000 pageviews. This accomplishment is attributed to our strategic focus on consistently producing valuable content, collaborating with external platforms, and actively engaging in PR activities.

Over the past two years, we successfully doubled our website traffic through a deliberate strategy and investment in forging new partnerships and collaborations with external experts in SEO and content marketing.

Organic search is the primary source of traffic, closely followed by our curated and regularly updated social media channels and newsletter.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned growing the business?

You need to fall in love with the work you do. Whatever activity you are involved in, take some time and reconsider it. Is this what you love? Success requires the ultimate devotion to the things you want to see happen and only love makes things really happen. 

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

The main challenge involved forming a competent and diverse team experienced in natural language processing, graph databases, and content creation. The second involved effectively articulating a forward-looking vision in which data is open, decentralized, and interconnected to drive online business growth through increased visibility and SEO.

WordLift has innovatively transitioned from semantic Web research to SEO. This shift occurred five years ago. In 2017, arguing the importance of semantic data was daunting, especially in the context of an emerging SEO technique. However, the strategy proved successful, and the industry now recognizes the indispensable role of semantic-rich data in the era of generative AI.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Remember, whether you’re in AI or not, you make fire when you connect with others. Make sure to choose the best and strive constantly for excellence.

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

There are times in my life when I get back to studying β€œThe Society of Mind”, which is both a book and a theory of natural intelligence that Marvin Minsky developed. This is one of these times πŸ˜‰.

I also recently read β€œThe Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the 21st Century’s Greatest Dilemma” By Mustafa Suleyman (who cofounded DeepMind)  and Michael Bhaskar. 

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