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YC startup SendHub secures $2M for serious SMS (exclusive)

SMS messages sent for practical, group communication rather than just LOLs is serious enough business that investors have handed SendHub a $2 million check.

Recent Y Combinator graduate SendHub, which bills itself as SMS for organizations, is in the business of replacing the email blast with an SMS message and aims to solve a myriad of real-world consumer, business, and enterprise one-to-many communication challenges.

SendHub has just closed a $2 million seed round led by Kapor Capital, the company exclusively told VentureBeat. Howard Lindzon’s Social Leverage fund, 500 Startups, Bronze Investments, Menlo Ventures, and angels including Eric Ries, Paul Buchheit, and Jawed Karim all participated in the round.

Why such a sizable seed raise for an SMS service? The young company and its new investors believe that SendHub is tackling a massive problem.

“How do you send a message and make sure you get a response?” said SendHub co-founder Ash Rust. “Email is not really that medium anymore, it’s just such an overburdened channel. Social media is even worse. It’s often impractical to call people. So that leaves SMS. And nobody has really made SMS serious — and that’s what we do.”

Teachers, group leaders, soccer coaches, business owners, company managers, and so forth can sign up for the service to get a number and access to a simple-to-use dashboard for sending messages (from the web or a cell phone) to a group of contacts. A teacher, for instance, could use SendHub to send a message to kids’ parents about a looming test or homework assignment, or a CrossFit box (a.k.a. gym) owner could have his members text the SendHub number to receive an auto-responder with the WOD (workout of the day in CrossFit speak).

If the idea sounds familiar, that’s because it’s very much a hybrid of consumer group messaging services such as GroupMe or Beluga and SMS marketing services. But the group messaging apps can’t realistically replace email, Rust said, and SendHub wasn’t really intended for marketing purposes. “We’re basically making SMS a BCC email,” he said.

The young company got its start specifically hoping to solve a pain point for teachers. This time last year, co-founder and CEO Garrett Johnson observed that teachers at his nephew’s charter school in Tampa had a really hard time getting in touch with parents and connecting with their students. So Johnson and Rust, then a director at Klout, set about creating a cost-effective and simple solution to facilitate this type of communication, but they quickly found that their serious SMS product had more universal appeal.

With the new funding, SendHub will hire more aggressively and round out the product with more enterprise-friendly features. “Our goal is to create a sustainable business around the fact that enterprises need to communicate in real time,” Rust said. “You should be able to use efficient communication systems like SMS from anywhere. We want to invest the money in making sure we can be everywhere our customers are.”

SendHub, which runs its service off of telecommunications startup Twilio’s voice and text platform, offers customers both free and paid plans and will work with enterprises on custom arrangements.

Founded in 2011, SendHub previously raised $300,000 from Howard Lindzon, Tom McInerney, and Y Combinator. The company currently employs a team of five and operates out of Mountain View, Calif. but is in the midst of relocating to Palo Alto. SendHub has thousands of users and sends hundreds of thousands SMS messages each month, Rust said.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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