Bangkok-based Eko Communications, which is focused on enabling intra-enterprise communication within large-scale companies through its mobile-centric product, has raised $5.7 million in Series A funding led by Gobi Partners.
Founded by Korawad Chearavanont and David Zhang, who serve in the roles of CEO and CTO respectively, Eko aims to be an enterprise mobile tool with the potential to boost enterprise productivity and security. Currently, many firms and workplaces rely on tools built for social communication, but are sub-optimal for business use.
Unlike other enterprise communication tools such as Slack or HipChat, Eko (which operates from offices in New York & Bangkok) is differentiating itself by focusing on a highly specific market segment – enterprises with a large distributed workforce numbering in the thousands.
By focusing on larger enterprises and addressing the challenges they face, Eko is able to differentiate itself from other business messaging apps, which mostly cater to smaller businesses and startup ventures.
Messages on Eko can be arranged by topic, thread or group, combined with search features and cross-device synchronisation ensuring that messages are readily retrievable. According to a media release by the firm, this is supplemented with encryption and the addition of employees to a company directory.
Currently available on iOS, Android and as a web client, Eko monetises its service on a per seat basis via a tiered pricing system topping out at $10 per user. However, client can tailor their own packages if they have specific needs for their firm.
Features of the app include the ability to selectively broadcast to specific groups of staff by location, management level or other criteria. Clients also have the ability to customise and white-label the app. With many firms using consumer messaging apps like Telegram, LINE and WhatsApp, what Eko offers is a more secure and customisable solution that is aligned with the predicted proliferation of mobile devices in the region.
Incidentally, Chearavanont is the grandson of billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont, the head of agribusiness conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group and one of the wealthiest industrialists in Thailand and the wider Southeast Asian region.
According to their Crunchbase profile, Eko is being “used by companies representing $3.3 billion in revenue, and has confirmed deployment plans to companies representing over $20 billion in total revenue”. It ‘s customers seemingly include public companies with a total of over $25 billion in market capitalisation, according to a media release.
In a statement to TechCrunch, Chearavanont said, “We’re very different. If you look at Slack’s client base, it’s very techy and focused on small teams… when the team becomes too big, it becomes less strong. With Eko, the bigger the team becomes, the stronger it is. For companies with less than 100 employees we’d recommend going to a rival.”
Eko began life in New York, when Chearavanont developed it during his tenure as a student in the US. The relocation of Eko’s main office to Bangkok is motivated by the need to be closer to its major clients, which include Thai mobile operator True, hotel giant Radisson and 7-Eleven. They also intend to expand across Southeast Asia.
According to Eko, most of its $1.2 million annual recurring revenue comes from China, where it has a number of undisclosed clients. the company plans plans to establish a Beijing office in near future
Commenting on this development in a statement to e27, Chearavanont said, “We were not planning to launch in China till later but it was actually quite organic because it was just kind of a couple of references from some executives in Southeast Asia to the, let’s just say, government-affiliated entities and it kind of peaked off and now we’re working with them on some stuff.”
The company is already profitable, and the current round of funding is mainly intended as growth capital. Future revenue is expected to be derived from associated services that customers can add to enhance their user experience. Some possibilities are customising and optimising the app for banks or hospitals.
To date, Eko claims to have an active user base that has grown more than 1800 per cent since April 2015.
According to Chearavanont: “Our strategy is long term. We don’t just want to be an enterprise messaging app, we want to be a mobile enterprise platform.”
Commenting on the investment, Kay-Mok Ku, a partner at Gobi Partners, explained: “The advent of email and shift to client/server computing created the groupware category in the 1990s. Similarly, the prevalence of instant messaging on smartphones has led to all-in-one social communication apps such as Wechat on the consumer front.”
Ku added, “We believe that there is ample room for enterprise-grade mobile communication platforms like Eko to thrive in the connected workplace.”