Venture capital 500 Startups has led an investment round in Philippine-based software startup engageSPARK, maker of a mobile phone engagement platform that allows users to create and launch automated phone calls, SMS texts, and Facebook Messenger without the help of IT staff.
The size of the deal is not disclosed. It was the first external funding raised by the tech startup.
“The financing will be used to fund sales and marketing expansion globally and further investment in engageSPARK’s proprietary technology platform that has already been used by hundreds of organizations globally in more than 125 countries,” engageSPARK said in a statement.
engageSPARK is focused on a massive market that has been largely ignored to date, referring specifically to the five billion people who have no Internet access or can’t afford data plans regularly.
Since launching in 2015, engageSPARK has been used by governments, NGOs, and businesses in over 125 countries to interact with their constituents, customers, applicants, and employees.
Organizations such as BASF, Convergys, Facebook, Google, Grameen Foundation, Intel, and UNICEF have used engageSPARK’s combination of Automated Phone Calls, 2-Way SMS, and Facebook Messenger to interact with their target audiences around the world.
engageSPARK increased engagement rates by making it always free for their target audiences to opt-in and engage via any mobile phone – at scale. They have also utilized missed calls and prepaid airtime transfer to further increase engagement rates.
“I’m impressed by the engagement platform that engageSPARK has built and how they’ve come at the market from a unique perspective by understanding the customer needs of organizations in emerging markets. This team totally gets it,” said 500 Startups managing partner Khailee Ng.
As early investors in app software startup Twilio, Khailee added that 500 Startups sees engageSPARK’s potential in the same way. Twilio raised up to $150 million in its IPO debut at the New York Stock Exchange last June 23, 2016.
engageSPARK founder and CEO Ravi Agarwal, said the funding will help the company scale its traction and platform to new markets.
“We’re excited to gain support from such prominent investors, all of whom have deep expertise in B2B businesses, especially in the communications markets,” Agarwal said.
Based on engageSPARK’s estimates, roughly one billion people have smartphones, but cannot afford data plans regularly. In total, about five billion people are not online either all or most of the time. engageSPARK claims the most effective medium to interact with these people – at scale – is to use automated phone calls, which work on every phone.