8 Oct 2020

Congratulations to MessageBird, the OPaaS rocketship joining the ranks of European unicorns today

You couldn’t make up a story about finding a multi-billion-dollar company in a garage in Europe. But that’s where MessageBird’s story began. When we first invested in the company’s Series A in 2017, the team was working out of three converted car mechanic’s garages side by side in Amsterdam. We were blown away by how founder Robert Vis had bootstrapped the business to a $100m run rate over six years before raising any outside capital. We knew they were onto something big.

MessageBird was founded in 2011 amid an explosion of messaging and communications channels that are still proliferating today — from SMS to Skype, WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, Line, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and many more. For consumers, this revolution has radically increased choice and speed of communications with family and friends, while also reducing the cost. But for companies, business-to-customer communications has become complex, expensive, slow and inefficient.

Many business-to-customer communications are bought and sold on an open market in which tens of thousands of platforms bid and barter to deliver batches of messages and calls. This complex and convoluted routing can mean a single call or message travels via three or four platforms on route to its destination, with each additional platform slowing the journey, taking their own cut, and exposing the business, and its customers, to security risks.

MessageBird had a solution. The company built the world’s fastest and most reliable infrastructure for delivering voice, video, chat and SMS communications direct to billions of customers anywhere in the world. They leveraged more than 250 direct carrier relationships from Sydney to Singapore, New York and Germany, giving them the ability to reach more than 7 billion phones directly .

According to Hiro Tamura, the Atomico Partner who led our investment into MessageBird and sits on the company’s board, “We had a view at Atomico that a company’s ability to reach the customer was going to be increasingly important, and every platform from text to WhatsApp was going to be relevant for that communication. Robert’s vision of being a global communications leader in a messaging-first world resonated with us given our experience scaling Skype internationally. We felt we could apply that knowledge, and deep sector experience in the communications space more broadly, to helping MessageBird expand internationally. What blew us away was that Robert had a vision for business communications beyond what we could have even imagined.”

MessageBird hasn’t stopped there. Over the past year, the team has transitioned from a Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) to the world’s leading Omnichannel Platform as a Service (OPaaS) company. As a CPaaS platform, MessageBird was opening up legacy communication channels by turning them into APIs for other companies to use. But the team stayed at the forefront of communications by expanding into also building new omnichannel products such as MessageBird Inbox, Flow Builder (an RPA platform for business messaging) and the Omnichannel Chat Widget. To drive omnichannel into the mainstream, the team understood that they needed to ultimately reach consumers directly.

It always seemed like a natural fit to work with Robert and the team. Atomico’s roots are in communications, given our heritage building Skype into a global leader, and these days we still love working with businesses in the space — from Truecaller to accuRx and, most recently, Attentive.

Since investing in 2017, our growth acceleration team has worked closely with MessageBird on everything from hiring to communications to building out a sales team and strategy.

Our Talent Partner Dan Hynes traveled weekly to help Robert and COO Mayke Nagtegaal build out the senior team, including a head of sales ops and head of talent acquisition. When the talent team was in place, there was work to be done around putting in place structure and processes, compensation and key hires. Time after time, Robert and Mayke demonstrated that they — and MessageBird — were world class talent magnets.

I know it’s their motto, but getting shit done really is their strength. They get things done quickly and to a high standard. And they’ve got a strong culture. There’s a lot of energy when you go to the office, and it’s impressive that they have taken that with them from three garages to a global scale up,” says Dan.

Adviser Alexis Dormandy helped the team from day one on marketing and sales go-to-market strategy, leveraging knowledge from working closely with Richard Branson at Virgin Group.

“What’s unusual about Robert is that he has the 30,000 foot view of the product, the market, the customer, the dynamics of what’s going on in the industry, and then he can take that down to the 2 foot view, what he needs to do to make that work. It’s very rare that you can do both,“ Alexis says.

Our Communications Partner Bryce Keane has worked closely with Robert and Mayke as an extension of the team to help them craft their narrative and global execution on almost every major announcement since we invested in 2017; from raising one of Europe’s largest Series A rounds to the global product launch of Inbox.

Robert’s vision has always been startlingly simple but incredibly complicated to achieve — to live in a world where we can message with a business, at a time and on a platform that suits us best, and never get stuck waiting on hold again. A true omnichannel experience is about shifting customer engagement away from the inefficient channels of email and voice to more dynamic messaging channels. That requires products for both businesses and consumers to complete the circle of having unified context around every interaction. This is now possible for any business to start doing in 30 seconds thanks to MessageBird’s suite of omnichannel products InboxFlow Builder and Omnichannel Chat Widget. It’s been a privilege to play a small part in helping Robert and the team shape their story and own the new OPaaS category in the process. But it’s been nothing short of remarkable to see how fast they’ve made that big vision a reality. 

Nearly a decade on, nearly every major tech company is making a play to own at least one (and in some cases three) business messaging channel as we move towards that messaging-first world Robert predicted years ago. While his vision has been vindicated, MessageBird is also unique in that it now sits at the forefront of this new world; allowing any business to get up and running in 30 seconds, shift between these channels seamlessly and have full unified context for every customer interaction.

While we are delighted to be a part of MessageBird’s latest $200M round, what we most want to say is: Congratulations on becoming Europe’s newest unicorn! MessageBird’s success is a testament to Robert and the team’s hard work, global scale and rapid progress, and we are excited by what lies ahead. It has been a privilege to be part of the MessageBird journey. Now let’s get some more shit done!

spinner