How one platform adapted faith for the modern era

 

The story of Science Inc. and Pray Inc. began in 2011, when I met founder and CEO, Steve Gatena, at a USC entrepreneurship event. Luckily for Steve, he’s as good at building companies as he is playing football (USC Rose Bowl Champion), and we kept in touch over the years as he built successful businesses in transportation and video content.

In 2016, Steve approached me with an idea: “to build the digital destination for faith,” as a platform for religion that was separate from sites like Facebook, which represent your social identity, and instead build a destination to grow faith and cultivate community. By giving people an app that revolved around content, community, and donations, Steve believed we could create a faith identity. Despite Silicon Valley’s aversion to non-secular startups at the time, our team at Science saw the endless possibilities in a digital-first faith community. With Steve and his founding team of Matthew Potter, Michael Lynn, and Ryan Beck, we chiseled and sanded the concept into what millions of people around the world today call Pray.com.

Fast forward to 2020, Pray.com has since raised $16M to date, and has more than a million monthly active users sharing more than 40,000 prayers every day. Pray.com is the world’s No. 1 app for Daily Prayer and Faith-based Audio content on both the Apple App & Google Play stores.

Like I said, Steve knows how to build companies.

Before Pray.com was able to bring faith to us on our phones, there were little-to-no quality resources for people to turn to when it came to daily prayers and inspirational content. Now, with both free and premium tiers, people can enjoy Daily Audio Prayers, Kids Bible Stories, Bedtime Bible Stories, as well as share prayers and prayer requests with friends and loved ones.

Pray.com is a social impact company with a mission to grow faith and cultivate community. This type of mission has been especially important as churches and places of worship shut their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between social distancing measures and lack of financial support, tens of thousands of places of worship across the country have had to turn away in-person congregants.

At the intersection of faith and technology, Pray.com has been able to pick up the slack with digital faith networks and spiritual connections to complement, and in some cases fill, the gap for in-person services. Taking it even further, Pray.com is also a giving platform, allowing places of worship to fundraise without fees associated with donations because of their strategic partnership with Stripe. To date, Pray.com has raised millions of dollars for 501c3 organizations while covering all transaction costs associated with giving, so that nonprofits can receive gifts dollar for dollar.

With all of this evidence, Silicon Valley would be remiss to exclude organized religion when analyzing and forecasting sound investments. According to Pitchbook, VC funding in faith-based apps has tripled since 2015. Now more than ever, people are seeking a spiritual and digital experience that fits into their modern, mobile lifestyles. This need will only continue to grow, creating abundant opportunities for faith community-building apps. Venture is also seeing a big shift in media, especially as it relates to faith-based content; it’s lucrative, profitable, maintains a strong audience, and has great long-term outcomes for investors.

In a time when social media is under scrutiny for spreading negative, uncontrolled content, platforms like Pray.com push feel good material that reinforces beliefs and faith, without the doom and dread of an endless news scroll.

Religion has been around for thousands of years, and until recently, a majority of people around the world have been ignored by technology. Now, with Pray.com, you have faith at your fingertips, and that’s a creation worth following.

images
images
Share this article
  1. images
    Los Angeles' VC stars are on the rise amid mega-exits

    Los Angeles just saw its largest tech acquisition ever when Honey sold to PayPal for $4 billion in November. What's it like to start a company or invest in LA's venture capital ecosystem?

    READ MORE
  2. images
    Santa Monica venture capital firm seeks out and supports disruption-minded startups

    Science Inc. founder Mike Jones knows where the money is in Silicon Beach.

    READ MORE
  3. images
    The State of Venture Capital and Theme Investing

    Players* Technology Summit - State of Venture Capital and Theme Investing

    READ MORE