Europe's answer to Twilio is now valued at $3 billion, as pandemic fuels cloud boom

MessageBird founder and CEO Robert Vis.

MessageBird

LONDON — Dutch cloud communications firm MessageBird says it’s raised $200 million in a mega-round of funding that values the company at $3 billion.

Founded in 2011, Amsterdam-based MessageBird sells software that makes it easier for companies to communicate with their customers through a range of channels including SMS, voice and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.

It operates in a similar space to Twilio, the U.S. software firm, but claims to offer a wider array of messaging options. MessageBird founder and CEO Robert Vis said his company is also more dominant in Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America, whereas Twilio is “very U.S.-focused.” Twilio was not immediately available for comment on this when contacted by CNBC.

MessageBird claims to have over 15,000 clients globally, including Lufthansa, SAP and Uber, but is still dwarfed by its U.S. counterpart. According to Twilio’s website, the company has more than 150,000 customers, from Twitter to Yelp. Its market cap, of over $40 billion, is also nearly 15 times that of MessageBird’s.

Cloud boom

MessageBird began life integrating directly with telecommunications firms and building its own carrier software platform in-house, Vis said. The company has more recently introduced new tools that allow businesses to switch between messaging channels without delay and add integrations with products from Salesforce and Slack.

“I just want to live in a world where I can text with a business,” Vis told CNBC in an interview. “I don’t want to live in this world of being on hold with customer support for 40 minutes.”

Like Twilio, MessageBird says it’s experienced a surge in demand as the coronavirus pandemic has fueled a faster-growing transition to online services. According to a July study from Juniper Research, the so-called communications-platform-as-a-service market is expected to be worth $7 billion this year, rising to $25 billion by 2025.

Twilio’s share price has tripled so far this year on the back of a wave of gains for cloud companies. The firm last week said it expected third-quarter revenue to surpass the $401 million to $406 million range it provided in August. 

‘Work from anywhere’ policy

As well as accelerating a shift to the cloud, the Covid-19 crisis has also forced many workers around the world abandon the office and work from home. With that trend in mind, Vis said MessageBird was also introducing a new policy that allows employees to “work from anywhere.”

“It has the benefit of being able to acquire talent from anywhere — some folks love their own city, and having to relocate from their home town isn’t always the easiest thing to do,” Vis said, adding that other pros included a better work-life balance and reduced environmental impact.

MessageBird’s latest round of funding, its third to date, was led by U.S. venture capital firm Spark Capital, whose General Partner Will Reed will join the firm’s board. Additional backers included Swedish media group Bonnier, as well as Glynn Capital, LGT Lightstone and Longbow, Mousse Partners and New View Capital, while existing investors Accel, Atomico, and Y Combinator also bought shares.

Vis added that the investment was negotiated entirely remotely — though he did say he met Reed once for coffee prior to the pandemic.

With a $3 billion market value — and as Twilio’s shares continues to climb — market watchers will no doubt be speculating about an eventual flotation for MessageBird. Vis said an initial public offering was the goal, however non-listed firms like his are still able to access capital in the private markets: “We’ll IPO when we feel it’s the right moment to do it.”

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