After focusing on Asian markets, particularly in Southeast Asia, Bangkok-based Eko Communications is getting ready to take on Slack, Microsoft Teams and other enterprise messaging apps in Europe. The startup announced today that it has raised a Series B of $20 million and opened offices in London (which will serve as its new commercial headquarters), Amsterdam and Berlin.
The funding, led by SMD Ventures, with participation from AirAsia’s digital investment arm Redbeat Ventures, Gobi Partners, East Ventures and returning investors, brings Eko Communication’s total raised to $28.7 million. The company’s Series A was announced in 2015, followed by $2 million in strategic funding from Japanese conglomerate Itochu last year. Eko Communications (not to be confused with Eko, an interactive video startup) has already served clients like Thai mobile operator True, Radisson and 7-Eleven.
Eko Communications’ Series B is earmarked for its ambitious global expansion plans in the first quarter of 2019. Korawad Chearavanont, the company’s CEO and co-founder, told TechCrunch in an email that it has already localized products for target markets, including the U.K., Ireland, Benelux and the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland).
Eko Communications wants to expand in the European Union and the United States because their economies are both significantly larger than Southeast Asia’s, said Chearavanont. This, plus the fact that both have larger enterprise IT markets thanks to higher spending on software by companies, means that “for Eko to achieve the necessary scale to become a global player in the mobile enterprise market, continued growth in these markets is critical,” he added.
The company claims that its revenues have more than tripled in the past year and that it now has more than 500,000 recurring paid users. Of course, any enterprise messaging startup has to contend with the specter of Slack and Microsoft Teams. Positioning Eko Communications as a rival to those services, however, isn’t totally accurate, because they are aimed at different customers.
Slack and Microsoft Teams are “primarily utilized by ‘knowledge workers’ and these systems are priced for these types of users,” Chearavanont said. “Being a mobile-first company, we target companies that have a large presence of mobile-first staff traditionally in industries like retail and hospitality (the services sector in general).” Many employees in those sectors still rely on messaging apps like WhatsApp or email to communicate, so Eko Communications seeks to make it easy for companies to transition from their ad hoc communication methods to a more secure and efficient system with tools like APIs to help them integrate legacy systems.