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SendBird, a company that provides the infrastructure for developers to build messaging and chat services into their apps, has raised $16 million in a series A round of funding led by Shasta Ventures and August Capital, with participation from Y Combinator and FundersClub.

Redwood City, California-based SendBird serves up a messaging SDK and chat API that enable mobile apps and websites to offer chat and messaging features. On the surface, the service seems similar to something like Twilio or MessageBird, which also allow developers to integrate communication features into their own apps; however, those two platforms were built more more on a telephony infrastructure that caters to calls and SMS.

SendBird, on the other hand, is more about internet protocol (IP) messaging, which offers richer functionality, including easier photo sharing, group chats, and more. A more direct competitor to SendBird would be a startup such as Layer, which raised a $15 million round earlier this year and which claims big-name backers such as Salesforce and Microsoft.

Above: SendBird: Examples

SendBird launched in South Korea in 2015, where its main R&D hub remains, though it has since moved its main headquarters to Silicon Valley.


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The company graduated from Y Combinator’s winter 2016 class, where it went on to receive around $2.6 million in seed funding from investors such as Twitch cofounder Justin Kan, Lookout cofounder Kevin Mahaffey, Horizon Partners’ Sandy Kory, and Algolia CEO Nicolas Dessaigne. With its first major raise now in the bank, the company said that it plans to expedite its plan to grow its client base.

“It’s our mission to digitize human interactions for businesses,” noted SendBird CEO and cofounder John S. Kim. “With the new round of financing, we can accelerate our plan to help companies rapidly increase the engagement and retention of their users by enabling real-time conversation with our chat API.”

The company claims that it powers chat and messaging for more than 6,500 applications globally, with the ability to support more than a million concurrent users per application. Its customers include Asian Uber rival Go-Jek, recently touted as Indonesia’s first billion-dollar startup; Korean video game giant Nexon; and Korean bank KB Kookmin Bank.

Effective IP messaging systems need to be built on a globally reliable infrastructure, and it’s far more cost-effective for companies — even billion-dollar corporations — to outsource this functionality, rather than build it in-house.

“We have seen a massive adoption of messaging and API services across enterprise and consumer apps,” added Villi Iltchev, partner at August Capital. “SendBird enables world-class enterprises to build rich and engaging messaging experiences that scale to millions of users across a wide range of use-cases, whether engaging with customers in online marketplaces, on-demand services, and ecommerce or fostering large online communities.”

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