Slack opened the tech world’s mind to the potential of messaging inside organizations, but there are plenty of others working to bring the concept to different kinds of businesses. One such startup, Bangkok-based Eko Communications, is focused on making communication within large-scale companies mobile-centric, and it has raised $5.7 million in Series A funding led by Gobi Partners.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think about a business messaging app is Slack, the billion dollar U.S. company that is used by practically every tech company worth its salt. But, like Pie — the Singapore-based company focused on the long-tail business of non-technical teams — Eko also has a very different market segment in mind: companies with thousands of staff upwards.
“We’re very different,” Korawad Chearavanont, founder and CEO told TechCrunch in an interview. “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 is available for iOS, Android and web. The service is charged on a per seat basis via a tiered pricing system that tops out at $10 per user, although clients with specific requests can tailor their own package.
Chearavanont, who is Thai but started Eko in his college dorm three years ago while studying in New Jersey, explained that the product includes features such as broadcast, an alert system that lets companies send messages to their entire employee base or specific staff based on location, job title, etc. Eko customers white-label their app with their own logo, and other customizations like motivational features to help staff get informal feedback from managers and teams, and a company-wide directory for looking up colleagues and their details.
Eko began life in New York, but the company is in the process of relocating to Thailand in order to be closer to its larger clients, which include Thai mobile operator True, hotel giant Radisson and 7-Eleven, and to push into Southeast Asia. The company said that “the majority” of its $1.2 million annual recurring revenue comes from China, where it has a number of undisclosed clients. With that in mind, it is planning to open an office in Beijing.
“Our focus market is Asia, it’s where we think there’s most potential for our product,” Chearavanont, who is the grandson of Southeast Asia’s richest man — Dhanin Chearavanont — said.
That relocation process started one year ago, and meant letting go of some of Eko’s engineering team in the U.S. who were not ready to make the move to Asia. Eko is hiring both Thai and foreign talent in Bangkok, however, and Chearavanont expects that total headcount will soon reach 30 employees.
Chearavanont said that the company is already profitable but it is taking funding and ramping up spending to grow its business. Future revenue, he said, will come from associated services that customers can add to bring richer content and interaction to their Eko app. For example, dedicated features for banks — which may want to cater to high-wealth customers with a more personal service — or hospitals — which could make consultations and analysis easier for doctors — are some of the ideas on the horizon.
“Our strategy is long term. We don’t just want to be an enterprise messaging app, we want to be a mobile enterprise platform,” Chearavanont added.
The explosion of messaging apps in Asia has opened even the most conservative companies to the idea of services like Eko and, with many employees already using consumer apps for internal communications, the company is offering a more secure and customized solution that it believes caters to the growth of mobile devices. That makes the hard sell considerably easier than it would have been a few years ago.