We put together a list of the top YC companies by valuation as of October 2018. You can see that list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.
Here’s a Q&A with Robert Vis, Founder of MessageBird, one of the companies featured on the list.
What does MessageBird make/do?
MessageBird is the Amsterdam-based cloud communications platform offering a suite of API’s that enable developers and enterprises to communicate with customers in virtually every corner of the planet. It is the platform that enables you to call or text your Uber driver or Domino’s delivery person within the app and it also powers mission-critical communications such as Amber Alerts, medication reminders from hospitals, appointment reminders from services like Dr. Doctor, and fraudulent activity notices from banks.
How many employees does MessageBird have?
How many founders?
Robert Vis, Founder and CEO
What is your most impressive recent product milestone?
In recent years, an explosion of messaging and communications channels has radically increased options and reduced the cost of communicating with family and friends anywhere in the world. But, for businesses trying to communicate with their customers via these channels, the infrastructure for global business-to-customer communications is increasingly complex, expensive and inefficient. Added to this headache, is that implementing omni-channel communications comes with heavy technical lifting. Each channel requires extra developer time and resources to manage not only initial implementation, but also continued maintenance and upkeep.
To address these challenges, MessageBird recently launched Programmable Conversations, an API for unifying customer interactions across multiple channels into a single conversation thread. By consolidating a customer’s entire communication history, enterprises can create rich customer profiles and deliver the ultimate personalized customer experience. With Programmable Conversations, enterprises can integrate WhatsApp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Line, Telegram, SMS and Voice interactions into their communications workflows.
Programmable Conversations enables enterprises to meet customers on the channels they already use. By adding and maintaining the connections to the world’s most popular channels, MessageBird does the heavy lifting so enterprises can focus on what matters most – delivering an experience that creates happy customers and brand loyalty.
What’s an interesting element of MessageBird’s company culture?
At MessageBird, diversity is built in. In fact, it’s not uncommon to sit at your desk and hear 5 different languages around you. That’s because MessageBird was founded in the Netherlands which is a small country – 2 hours in any direction and you are in a different country, with a different language and different culture. There are over 30 nationalities represented and over 20 languages spoken. We feel this diversity gives us an edge in serving our customers.
Looking back, what motivated you to start MessageBird?
Prior to MessageBird, I founded a company called ZayPay, which was a mobile payments company that allowed 1.5 billion users to pay for goods on their mobile phone bills in 50+ countries. At the time, we wanted to verify phone numbers via text message, but the leading vendor/market leader at the time was unreliable—messages were lost or not delivered on time.
So, we built our own technology stack in-house (something, at the time, that only big companies like Nokia or Ericsson did), integrated with the Dutch carrier, and took the business away from the vendor. Weeks later, that vendor became our first client. We then sold ZayPay (to Mobile Interactive Group, later Velti, now mGage) and held onto the part of the business that became MessageBird (previously named Mobile Tulip.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?
Build a business, not an exit strategy. At MessageBird, we bootstrapped for six years before taking on outside funding. It wasn’t easy. But it was a crucial time to develop our product, define our mission and build a strong, sustainable foundation. And, when we were ready, the money was still there. In fact, we raised the largest Series A ever by a European software company. It’s a feat we couldn’t have managed if we’d spent our time worrying about who was going to buy us for a billion dollars, instead of building the best product possible for our customers. It’s not that entrepreneurs shouldn’t look to the future. But even in the breakneck, competitive landscape, it’s possible to plot your vision without obsessing about your exit. There’s a reason your idea and your exit are at opposite ends of the entrepreneurial journey, instead of stacked together. When an exit is your end goal, it’s easy to shortchange your vision and become short sighted about innovating and improving the business.