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Emerging Vertical Software Deep Dive – Religion Software

We at Bowery Capital released the 2016 edition of Opportunities In Vertical Software in November, which laid out our point of view on ten specific verticals and the potential for various software solutions to dominate each of these ten verticals in the coming years as well as technology shaping the future of four emerging vertical. This Emerging Vertical Software Deep Dive post is intended to provide an analysis of religion software history, market themes, & investors.

History of Religion Industry Software

The earliest advent of software being leveraged among religious institutions started with what was often employee or volunteer created spreadsheets that tracked scheduling, inventory, membership, fees, and much more. Like any other organization, religious institutions have a wide array of activities and resources that need to be tracked for effective management. Religious institutions need to closely track congregant fees and donations to maintain insight to all capital inflow similar to revenue tracking at a for profit organization. While spreadsheets and file cabinets were a somewhat plausible solution from an accounting perspective, complexity increases as religious organizations sought to digitize the entirety of their processes. As a new generation of leaders comes to the helm of these organizations, they are quickly adopting digital solutions for content, facility management, scheduling, memberships, as well as other areas of the operation; they also seek an integrated platform that provides transparency across all operations for streamlined management.

Religion Software Market Themes:

(1) Digitizing the Process has become a core focus for new leaders. The first area that has seen a lot of development is accounting and financial management. Religious institutions are subject to a unique set of tax laws, which requires organizations to take extra care in managing their finances according to all laws and regulations. To better serve this need several niche players and traditional software players have created platforms unique to the needs of a religious institution. Other areas seeing digitization is facilities management and scheduling. As congregations grow and have more locations, it becomes crucial to manage resources at both a granular and high level. Another core area for religious organizations is the documentation and distribution of content and learning. Leveraging learning management systems allows them to curate courses and information modules that congregants can now consume from anywhere rather than solely a classroom setting.

(2) Religious Marketplace Growth is on the rise as several marketplaces develop to cater to larger religious markets such as kosher and halal. As these marketplaces gain traction they aim to offer all religious needs across text, dress, food, and much more. First movers in religious specific marketplaces are able to capture growth being fueled by a market growing due to global e-commerce growth as well as increased demand for religious based products.

(3) User Experience becomes front and center with the entry of the  next generation of congregants and religious leaders. The newer generation has grown up in a world where all parts of their lives are integrated and easily accessible via their mobile phone or laptop; Combined with easy access is an easy to use interface.  For religious organizations to ensure that they maintain a presence in their congregant’s daily lives, they are adopting best in class user experience interfaces and making their applications easy to use.

Most Active Investors Focused On Religion Technology:

Investor appetite for religion technology startups is still at early stages. To date, many of the applications being created are either developed by self-funded startups or large organizations augmenting their solutions to fit the needs of religious organizations (e.g. Quick Books for Religious Institutions)

Thank you for reading our analysis on the Religion Software Vertical. Make sure to check out the 2016 edition of Opportunities In Vertical Software for the full report.

Mike Brown
Mike Brown

Mike is the Managing Partner at Bowery Capital based in New York. Prior to Bowery Capital, Brown co-founded AOL Ventures and led investments in over 30 companies primarily focused around the next generation of CMO and CTO spend. Before AOL Ventures, Mike worked for the investment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, helping to invest capital in early stage internet startups on behalf of the British entrepreneur. He began his career at Morgan Stanley. Outside of his professional life Brown serves on the Board of Directors of the National Forest Foundation and co-chairs the Columbia College Young Leaders Council. Mike holds an undergraduate degree from Columbia University.