Sendbird, a Born2Global Centre member since 2016, has closed $100 million in Series C funding led by Steadfast Capital and has moved into the ranks of unicorn startups with a total valuation at $1.05 billion. The messaging and communications solutions startup offers businesses in-app integrations for chat/voice/video and is one of 12 unicorns founded in Korea - and the first in the B2B enterprise software market. 


The funding and valuation come amid growing interest in enabling in-app chat, voice, and video messaging functions to facilitate interactions with brands via mobile devices. Increasingly, the presumption is that customers should be able to click to engage in customer service, whether via chat or a voice or video call, and this is where Sendbird’s messaging APIs come in.


As evidenced by the growing demand, Sendbird reported that the number of monthly active users on its platform now exceeds 150 million and the number of applications powered by its messaging APIs has tripled over the past couple years to over 30,000 applications. Its largest U.S. customers include Reddit, Yahoo! Sports, Hinge, Headspace, and ServiceNow, among others.


In its humble beginnings, the messaging API solutions startup began back in 2013 under the name Smile Family with their service “SmileMom”, a community app for mothers as a social networking service. Then in 2015, the business model pivoted to an enterprise-oriented messaging model, and a new application program interface called Talk API debuted in 2016 - the same year they were selected as a member of the Winter 2016 Y Combinator class. In 2017, Sendbird officially started expanding globally through Series A rounds, followed by scaling up through Series B funding, which ended in the successful international patent filings and Series C round this year. 


Throughout the stages, Sendbird received expert Born2Global Centre support in various fields, such as law, marketing, public relations (PR), business development, and primarily patent consulting, through which they have been able to achieve trademark applications and overseas tech research trends across 20 countries, including China, Japan, Australia, and Canada.


The Born2Global Centre’s Chief Executive Director Jongkap Kim sits with Sendbird’s Chief Executive Officer Dong Shin “John” Kim in the Centre’s YouTube channel below to capture the many challenges and triumphs of starting - and pivoting - a company from the ground up and opening a new door of opportunities for future unicorns.


This series “The Unicorns” conveys the inner workings and insights behind the growth process of startups starting from the early stage into an international presence, with plans to include more of such companies in the future.


Launched in South Korea five years ago, content discovery platform Dable now serves a total of six markets in Asia. Now it plans to speed up the pace of its expansion, with six new markets in the region planned for this year, before entering European countries and the United States. Dable announced today that it has raised a $12 million Series C at a valuation of $90 million, led by South Korean venture capital firm SV Investment. Other participants included KB Investment and K2 Investment, as well as returning investor Kakao Ventures, a subsidiary of Kakao Corporation, one of South Korea’s largest internet firms.


Dable (the name is a combination of “data” and “able”) currently serves more than 2,500 media outlets in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. It has subsidiaries in Taiwan, which accounts for 70% of its overseas sales, and Indonesia.


The Series C brings Dable’s total funding so far to $20.5 million. So far, the company has taken a gradual approach to international expansion, co-founder and chief executive officer Chaehyun Lee told TechCrunch, first entering one or two markets and then waiting for business there to stabilize. In 2021, however, it plans to use its Series C to speed up the pace of its expansion, launching in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, mainland China, Australia and Turkey before entering markets in Europe and the United States, too.


The company’s goal is to become the “most utilized personalized recommendation platform in at last 30 countries by 2024.” Lee said it also has plans to transform into a media tech company by launching a content management system (CMS) next year.


Dable currently claims an average annual sales growth rate since founding of more than 50%, and says it reached $27.5 million in sales in 2020, up from 63% the previous year. Each month, it has a total of 540 million unique users and recommends five billion pieces of content, resulting in more than 100 million clicks. Dable also says its average annual sales growth rate since founding is more than 50%, and in that 2020, it reached $27.5 million in sales, up 63% from the previous year.


Before launching Dable, Lee and three other members of its founding team worked at RecoPick, a recommendation engine developer operated by SK Telecom subsidiary SK Planet. For media outlets, Dable offers two big data and machine learning-based products: Dable News to make personalized recommendations of content, including articles, to visitors, and Dable Native Ad, which draws on ad networks including Google, MSN and Kakao.


A third product, called, is an ad-targeting solution for e-commerce platforms that also makes personalized product recommendations.


Dable’s main rivals include Taboola and Outbrain, both of which are headquartered in New York (and recently called off a merger), but also do business in Asian markets, and Tokyo-based Popin, which also serves clients in Japan and Taiwan.


Lee said Dable proves the competitiveness of its products by running A/B tests to compare the performance of competitors against Dable’s recommendations and see which one results in the most clickthroughs. It also does A/B testing to compare the performance of articles picked by editors against ones that were recommended by Dable’s algorithms.


Dable also provides algorithms that allow clients more flexibility in what kind of personalized content they display, which is a selling point as media companies try to recover from the massive drop in ad spending precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Dable’s Related Articles algorithm is based on content that visitors have already viewed, while its Perused Article algorithm gauges how interested visitors are in certain articles based on metrics like how much time they spent reading them. It also has another algorithm that displays the most viewed articles based on gender and age groups.

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