Eko raises $5.7m for messaging platform in Series A round led by Gobi Partners

Brand logo from the Eko website, August 2015

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.

This follows a seed round held in April 2014 where it raised $1 million from 500 Startups, Tigerlabs Ventures and Wavemaker 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 Chearavanontthe head of agribusiness conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group and one of the wealthiest industrialists in Thailand and the wider Southeast Asian region.

Chearavanont’s father is Suphachai Chearavanont, the president and CEO of Thai telecommunications firm True – which has deployed the mobile app for internal use.

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.

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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.”

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.