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SendHub Takes On Google Voice With Debut Of Shared Groups; Grabs New Investment From Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

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SendHub, the messaging startup backed by $2 million in seed funding from Y Combinator, Kapor Capital, Menlo Ventures, 500 Startups and others, is today announcing a highly in-demand new feature with the launch of Shared Groups, as well as a notable new investor: Jeb Bush, 43rd Governor of Florida. This is the first startup investment for the former Republican governor, and one which saw the politician approaching SendHub, instead of the other way around.

Garrett Johnson, who founded SendHub with Ash Rust in 2011, first got his start in politics working for Bush and still serves on the board of one of Bush’s foundations. Johnson says he sent the politician an article about SendHub, and Bush asked him if there was an opportunity to invest. Bush’s investment was in the five-figure range – neither at the low-end or the high-end of the spectrum, in terms of what SendHub’s other angels have put in, Johnson notes.

It’s somewhat unusual to see politicians playing the role of investor in early stage startups, but in Florida, area leaders have been pushing to see how the state can harness startup momentum to create jobs and boost the economy. There are even a couple of members in Florida’s legislature who have launched startups, Johnson points out. “I think there’s this trend of non-traditional investors from the sports and entertainment world starting to turn to the technology space,” he says. “There’s a lot of potential upside there, and hopefully you’ll see more non-traditional investors in places like Florida, including political leaders, starting to move in this direction as well.”

But while Bush’s investment will be the headline in political circles, the team at SendHub is more excited about the new feature they’re debuting today called Shared Groups. For those unfamiliar with this company, SendHub is something of an alternative to Google Voice, but one that was designed with the needs of businesses in mind. The scalable voice and SMS platform, built on top of Twilio technology, allows organizations, including schools, mom-and-pops, and enterprise customers the ability to call and text with their customers.

The company first got its start as a platform for teachers, who needed a secure way to communicate with students and parents, and, to date, it remains a “freemium” service so schools will always be able to afford the system. But for customers who have the specific need of sharing contact information across an organization, the Shared Groups feature will help significantly. Explains SendHub’s co-founder Ash Rust of the addition, “it’s just like a Shared Folder in Dropbox – you make one edit to a contact, and it’s pushed out to everyone else who has access to it.” The recipients can either read or edit the contact group, given the permissions set by the sender.

SendHub has been continuing its rapid growth, and has now sent 5 million messages on its platform, up from 1 million in July. And it’s now sending 2 million messages per month – significantly higher than the 300,000+ the company reported in late June. It has also grown its user base from 5,000 to 25,000 during that same time, including both free and paid users. “Our monthly active number is about 75% of our total – that’s people who have taken an action in the last 30 days,” explains Rust, breaking down the numbers. “And we try to look at conversion over a six-month period. For active users who have been with us for six months or more, that’s where we see conversion at 11%,” he says.

The company is now working on an enterprise level of the service, where a business will have access to a company-wide dashboard and administrative oversight of accounts, among other things. Today, there are about ten enterprise customers, representing hundreds of individual accounts, signed up to test this offering. “We found this really pulls people away from something like Google Voice,” says Rust. “On Google Voice, you can’t really get command and control of your users and your system.”

The updated feature set including Shared Groups will be available beginning today.