Varun Chatterji, cofounder of tenCube, now working on Sent.ly to improve international SMS delivery

Putting Singapore onto the world map is none other than the acquisition of tenCube by McAfee. Founded by Darius Cheung, Varun Chatterji and Rishi Kumar, the team joined McAfee after the acquisition in August 2010, and recently moved on to their next big idea.

Previously, we reported that Darius Cheung was working on BillPin to help people track who owes what and Rishi Kumar is working on Rotimatic, a product of Zimplistic, which is founded by his wife. On the other hand, Varun is working on Sent.ly, a new SMS gateway for apps and services to connect with users. We spoke to Varun and he introduced the idea to us:

Could you introduce Sent.ly to our readers?

SMS has been the customer communication medium of choice for small to medium scale e-commerce operators and merchants. From booking a taxi cab using an SMS to getting an alert when your food will be delivered, SMS is an effective means of interaction with customers. SMS reliability, scalability and cost remains a major concern, especially internationally. International SMS delivery through aggregators depends on risky inter-operator agreements. Companies wishing to operate in multiple geographical locations must look to find the “best” service and re-implement their solutions in each region. Even with the “best” regional operator, achieving interactivity in systems (the ability to send & RECEIVE SMS) remains a pain point.

Sent.ly allows companies to setup a two way SMS gateway locally using an entry-level Android phone and a local SIM card. This solves a few pressing issues: reliability, cost and interactivity.
By using a local GSM connection, reliability is greatly enhanced – it’s like sending a local SMS through a local phone. All they need is a Sent.ly account and the Sent.ly app running on their Android phones. This strategy has been effectively used by one of our customers to use the Sent.ly solution in as many as eight countries (one in South America!) concurrently.

Are there any competitors in the space you are operating in?

Sent.ly operates in the A2P messaging market which is projected (by Juniper) to be worth USD$70B by 2016. We consider two companies in this space to be our major competition. We compete with Telerivet in terms of technology, but their focus is both geographically and commercially different from ours. We also compete with Twilio – however, unlike Twilio, Sent.ly customers can use their own mobile number (their commercial identity) and have the option for local replies. Furthermore, Sent.ly is available and can be deployed anywhere in the world, and can be operational in minutes – Twilio depends on operator agreements, and hence is available only in a limited number of regions globally, especially in terms of inbound messaging.

How has the experience at tenCube helped sent.ly?

The tenCube experience led to recognizing the problem. Some functionality of the WaveSecure product depended on SMS. We were always faced with the problem of identifying good vendors who we could use to send and receive SMS. This problem was especially big in South and South East Asia. We always wished we could find a reliable solution that would work locally but it was hard to come by.

Could you share more about the team behind Sent.ly and where is the team based?

The team currently consists of 2 full time employees and a bunch of help from part-timers and tenCube old-timers. The team is based in Singapore.

How was private beta and what were the lessons learnt?

Our private beta was quite effective with nearly 200 signups primarily hitting our site through word of mouth. We got a lot of valuable feedback from our developer community and many of the features that have successfully made it into our roadmap were ideas that originated from our beta users. Most importantly, we found a dedicated group of developers who believed in us, and stuck with us all the way – we’d like to thank each every one of them!

What is Sent.ly currently looking for right now? 

We are looking for funding to expand our team and deliver functionality and product enhancements that our current customers are asking for. We are also always looking for developers who want to build cool apps that communicate over SMS using Sent.ly. We are already seeing some action with developers independently developing open source modules using sent.ly such as https://github.com/lacostej/sently-sms done by Jerome Lacoste of We Want To Know. We want to encourage developers to use Sent.ly more and keep up the good work in building on and promoting the platform. Of course partners that can help us reach a bigger audience are also always folks we want to work with.

 

Jacky Yap

Having spent one year abroad in Shanghai under the NUS Overseas College Programme, Jacky has an avid interest in entrepreneurship and web based startups. Jacky used to run N-House, Singapore's first entrepreneurial themed residence in NUS, and was also part of the organizing team for Startup Weekend Singapore 2012. You can reach him at jacky [at] e27 [dot] co

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