Telerivet, a company that is providing an SMS gateway and a customized SMS application platform for organizations and businesses in East Africa and the developing world, has raised $1 million in funding from Javelin Venture Partners and angel investors.
The company’s co-founders, Joshua Stern and Jesse Young, were both helping to develop software platforms for grassroots NGOs in Tanzania and discovered the need for workable SMS technology. As Young and Stern explained, the majority of people in these areas are not connected to the Internet but do have mobile phones that are SMS-enabled. But there wasn’t a great way for businesses and organizations to reach consumers at a mass scale in these countries. Existing services like Twilio don’t offer SMS phone numbers in developing countries, or there are services that only work for those who can afford expensive shortcodes. So the team decided to create the technology themselves.
Telerivet allows businesses and non-profits to easily deploy custom SMS services in developing countries. It works by combining a web-based messaging platform with an Android app serves as the gateway. The phone and app will forwards SMS to and from mobile phones that don’t have internet.
The app itself simply allows the organization to set up a local number, and Telerivet’s servers in the cloud will trigger SMS messages sent through the Android phones to other phones. The virtue of using the phone as the gateway is that it can just be plugged into an outlet and doesn’t need Internet connectivity to run.
On the online platform, users can set up text message campaigns, create polls and more. It’s easy enough that a non-programmer can do sophisticated things with text messaging and outreach, says Stern. And this is being done in parts of the world where mass outreach via mobile phones is difficult to deploy. Companies can pay as little as $10 per month or up to $100 per month.
For example, Telerivet is working with a local goods shipping company in Tanzania that needs to coordinate with drivers on the move. Telerivet has helped this company develop an SMS program to check-in with drivers on the road from the web.
Before this funding, Telerivet was bootstrapped for nearly a year and has already been signing up dozens of customers in countries from India to Paraguay to Somalia. One notable user is Kiva.org, which uses Telerivet to communicate with its borrowers in Kenya. The funding will be used to further scale the product and help sell Telerivet to local SMEs initially focused on East Africa.