engageSPARK, a Cebu (Philippines)-based mobile engagement that allows “anyone to interact with anyone via any phone at scale’, has received an undisclosed sum in investment led by Silicon Valley-based VC fund-cum-accelerator 500 Startups.
As per a statement, the startup will use the financing to fund its sales & marketing expansion globally and also to enhance its technology platform. “All of our investors have deep expertise in B2B businesses, especially in the communications markets. This funding will help us scale our traction and platform to new markets,” said Ravi Agarwal, Founder & CEO of engageSPARK and a Partner at 500 Startups.
Launched in 2015, engageSPARK enables anyone, anywhere to build and launch SMS and voice call alerts, surveys, reminders, educational curriculums, and on-demand information campaigns to 200-plus countries – within a short time. NGOs and governments anywhere can use the platform to extend the reach and impact of their social change programmes to encompass all poor people in the world who have mobile phones. Similarly, using engageSPARK, businesses can expand their customer base and conduct targeted consumer research.
A self-service website, any non-technical person can quickly create and launch many types of interactive SMS and voice messaging campaigns. This enables anyone, anywhere to send key information and collect important data from any recipient with access to a phone.
Organisations without IT staff can use its 3-step wizards to build and launch blasts, surveys, auto replies, interviews, information services, curriculums, IVR campaigns, and hotlines. engageSPARK also offers APIs to integrate with clients’ own technologies, especially organisations for whom voice, SMS, and Facebook Messenger technologies are not their core product.
If we draw a comparison, engageSPARK is somewhat similar to Twilio. “With Twilio, the business customer needs to necessarily have a software developer write code to create their SMS & Voice interaction flows. And, writing the initial application is the easy part; the real work is in iterating the interaction flow to achieve success and also writing reports for the business people to analyse the interaction results. Every time the business person wants to iterate the interaction, they have to ask the developer to schedule it in and that often takes weeks – along with taking up expensive developer time,”Agarwal told e27.
“We’re democratising the power of Twilio and putting it in the hands of anyone (especially non-IT people) at any company of any size in any country. Our customers can build an interaction flow in just minutes and launch in any country – without writing a single line of code! And they can iterate the flows quickly using our website and view real-time reports anytime to get insights and iterate again. In simple terms, engageSPARK = Twilio + software developer(s) + UI,” he explained.
The other key difference is that Twilio is primarily focused and optimised for developed countries, while engageSPARK is focused on a massive market that has been largely ignored to date. According to the UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, 53 per cent of the world’s population, or about 3.9 billion people, were still offline at the end of 2016. According to engageSPARK’s estimates, roughly one billion people have smartphones, but cannot afford data plans regularly. In total, about 5 billion people are not online either all or most of the time.
Organisations that want to interact with these 5 billion people cannot use email, apps, or websites to do so. While SMS texts are quite popular for personal communications (for literate populations), they are no longer an effective medium for interactions with organisations. This is where engageSPARK comes into picture.
Khailee Ng, Managing Partner at 500 Startups, said, “engageSPARK understands the customer needs of organisations in emerging markets. We were early investors in Twilio and see engageSPARK’s potential in the same way.”
Image Credit: engageSPARK
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