SendBird is the second Korean startup that Y Combinator has invested in, after Memebox. A total of five Korean startups have been selected by Y Combinator, a program known for its low acceptance rate. During the Y Combinator acceleration program in 2016, SendBird’s revenue grew more than 20 times.
SendBird’s core technology is a chat API for mobile and desktop apps, websites, and games. Enterprise customers can easily integrate messaging and chat capabilities into their services with SendBird’s solution. It opens a window for a company to talk to its customers. Even for chat API development companies, it takes a lot of resources to make a new chat feature for their own apps, which is why SendBird is being integrated in various cases.
We met with Jay Yoon, Head of Engineering at Sendbird, to learn more about their growth in the last two years.
Platum: We heard that your revenue grew 20 times during the acceleration program at Y Combinator.
Yoon: Demand for interactive services has exploded and SendBird now supports more than 6,000 apps, websites, and games for chat and messaging. Currently, 5 million end-users from 153 different countries, send and receive more than 100 million messages through SendBird’s chat API. Our major clients include Kookmin Bank, Coin One, Nexon, Gameville, SBS and TMON. Our current revenue model is based on annual license.
Platum: What lessons have you learned and what philosophies have you built within the organization while doing business in the U.S. for the past two years?
Yoon: If the previous SendBird team was a team that had a strong local optimization advantage, after Y Combinator, we turned into a team that executes everything in line with global standards. Sometimes the cultural differences are uncomfortable and we face some embarrassing moments, but we realized we had to adapt after meeting and communicating with teams from global markets. We are also convinced that when we try to make change, there is a corresponding opportunity and reward that comes with it. This conviction is the driving force for our team and it motivates us to move forward.
Platum: How many team members are there now?
Yoon: There are 15 members in Korea and 8 in the United States. We currently have two offices, one in Redwood City, California and one in Seoul.
Platum: What are the strengths of SendBird, as a team that runs businesses in both Korea and the United States?
Yoon: Our biggest strength is that we can run customer service for 24 hours to the B2B customers all over the world. I think this is one of the most important factors for enterprise customers with global operating systems.
Platum: Who are the competitors in the chat API market and what is Sendbird’s competitive strength?
Yoon: Layer, Quickblox, Hyphenate, and Twilio are our competitors. I am confident that SendBird is the world’s most scalable chat API. We are the only company that can provide a stable service that supports one million concurrent users at the same time. Also, we are the only service provider focused on enterprises and we offer support with back-end business and consulting services when customers need to adapt to the new technology.
Platum: How did you acquire large customers in the Indonesian market, such as GO-JEK and Treveloka?
Yoon: Through content marketing and SEO, we conduct our sales through inbound marketing and it has helped us quickly scale with global customers.
The conversational banking platform, LiveToKTok, that Sendbird services with Kookmin Bank is a big challenge for both companies. Traditional banking has long been conservative about cloud computing due to regulations. However, starting from the end of last year, the government changed regulations so that non-critical information can be handled on the cloud system. According to Sendbird, Liiv TalkTalk is the first example of a cloud-based innovation service in the conservative domestic banking system.
Platum: What are the advantages of conversational banking services?
Yoon: Conversational banking can replace almost any offline service without being limited by the UI. Without any new button, any questions can be asked through the chatroom. Above all, the biggest advantage is that it is not limited by time and place. Beyond the limits of the fixed UI, customers can inquire and receive a fully personalized service through the chat feature. The banks do not have to worry about having less customers at the branch offices. They can respond to inquiries from all around the world, and they can also respond to multiple customers at once.
Platum: What do you think is the possibility of a conversational interface in the industry beyond Fintech?
Yoon: Now it is time to move on from the traditionally fixed UI to providing the interactive interface with Zero U/I, which can be integrated with any UX. In that respect, the interactive interface means a single channel with the customer, which can also be considered a new marketing channel. Customer Service (CS) has already moved on from a simple channel for after service (AS), to a channel for both marketing and sales. As soon as the communication channel is opened, CS, marketing, and sales will all be linked together. Interactive services such as interactive banking, interactive commerce, and chatbots are starting to dominate the market as it overcomes the technical limitations and price burden of text messages.
Platum: What’s SendBirds’ funding plan in the future?
Yoon: Through Y Combinator, we received investment from major investors at Silicon Valley, such as Justin Kan (Founder of Twitch) and the FundersClub. We are preparing for a Series A round this winter.
Platum: Finally, please tell us about SendBird’s short term and long term goals.
Yoon: Our short term goal is to become a world-renowned SaaS company, specializing in the Chat API sector. In the long term, We would like to develop into a company that digitalizes all interactions between people and machines. We will work hard so please keep supporting us. Thank you.
（Top photo from 58pic.com）
This article, entitled “Interview: Meet SendBird, the Korean chat API startup backed by Y Combinator”, was written in Korean by Margot Jung of Platum, edited by AllTechAsia.