MessageBird lands $60m in largest early-stage funding for European software firm

A MessageBird booth at Mobile World Congress Shanghai. Source: Company's Twitter account

Dutch start-up messaging company MessageBird has landed $60 million in first-round funding, the largest ever early-stage venture capital investment into a European software company.

MessageBird helps 15,000 organisations send messages or communicate with customers via chat, voice or video. Clients range from companies such as Uber, SAP and Heineken, to governments and semi-public organisations that use it for emergency messages and medical appointment notifications.

The Amsterdam-based firm competes in the fast-growing cloud-based messaging market with more than a dozen firms, including Twilio, Blackberry, Nexmo and Urban Airship.

The unusually large first round fundraising is due to the company having had almost no outside investment since it was founded in 2011, which forced it to be profitable from the start. It expects to generate revenue of $100 million in 2017.

“We have been growing about 100 percent a year for a couple of years now,” Robert Vis, MessageBird’s 33-year-old founder and chief executive, said in an interview. “We are always looking at how to sustain that”.

The so-called “Series A” funding round of $60 million was led by Accel Partners of Silicon Valley and joined by Atomico, a top European venture firm, along with seed stage investor Y-Combinator.

COMPETITION

Messaging software makers face mounting competition including from broad-based cloud services providers such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Amazon, which earlier this year introduced its Connect embedded telephone services at prices one analyst estimated at about 40 percent lower than Twilio’s.

What sets MessageBird apart is that it has forged deals and built interfaces with 220 telecom carriers worldwide, making it the only similar platform running on telecoms carrier-grade infrastructure rather than over the internet. This allows it to speed delivery and guarantee quality of messages at lower costs.

“Until MessageBird, no one in the space had successfully built the relationships and technology at scale to directly (connect into) telecommunications carriers around the world,” said Atomico Partner Hiro Tamura, who will join the company’s board.

Its services can reach billions of mobile phones, it said.

MessageBird said it planned to use the funding to accelerate hiring and target new customers and small acquisitions in the United States, Europe and Asia.

With 75 employees, up from 25 in 2015, MessageBird generates more than $1 million in revenue per employee, “something of a magic number for us,” Vis said.

Vis said the funding would also raise its profile and bolster its balance sheet, both of which will reassure high-value potential customers such as banks of its staying power.

Despite having many of the business and financial metrics that have led rivals such as Twilio to stock market flotations, Vis said he has no intention to seek an IPO “for years to come.”

Reuters

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.

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.