WhatsApp is used by more than two billion people worldwide and is an important tool for many small businesses. But as they scale, even WhatsApp for Business may not be able to meet your needs. Here comes WATI (WhatsApp Team Inbox). Built on the WhatsApp for Business API, WATI has sales and customer engagement tools built for the messaging app. Today, the Hong Kong and Malaysia-based startup announced that it has raised $23 billion in Series B funding to expand its team and product.
The round was led by Tiger Global with participation from regular investors Sequoia Capital India and Southeast Asia and new investors DST Global Partners and Shopify (marking the e-commerce platform’s first venture investment in a startup operating in the Southeast Asian region). WATI’s last funding round was an $8.3 million Series A announced 10 months ago, and its new round brings the total to over $35 million as of 2020.
WATI founders Bianco Ho and Ken Yeung started working together in 2016 to build Clara.AI, a multi-channel AI digital assistant for large companies in Asia. In 2020, they launched WATI to offer small and medium-sized businesses a self-service, low-code product on the WhatsApp for Business API. The startup currently has more than 6,000 customers in 75 countries, including small and medium-sized businesses in spaces such as home cleaning, schools, education centers, edtech, fintech, medical facilities, D2C brands and Shopify stores.
Ho told TechCrunch that while she and Yeung were working on Clare.AI, “our assumption was that only larger companies had the resources to implement a successful AI-powered digital assistant.” However, after several years of working with their customers, the two realized that many were looking for a simpler solution, so WATI was created. Part of the reason for its launch was the digital acceleration caused by the pandemic, as many companies rushed to get online.
In many developing and mature markets like Europe, WhatsApp is the preferred communication channel between customers and businesses. WATI helps non-technical companies increase customer service, engagement and customer acquisition through their CRM.
WATI’s customer engagement software is built on the WhatsApp for Business API and enables users to send personalized notifications. The platform includes a team-based multi-agent collaboration inbox and features such as smart routing, predefined responses, data tagging and analytics. Interactions can be automated through low-code workflows and chatbots and connected to e-commerce platforms and CRMs. WATI also has integrations with platforms like Zoho, Shopify and Google Sheets.
An example of how WATI is used is a large e-commerce company that relies on it to manage campaigns such as Prime Day. The company typically receives 60-100 messages a day from customers through the WATI team’s inbox, most of which come from its website’s WhatsApp chat, and sends around 30,000 messages every day when campaigns are active. .
Another example is an edtech client that has been using WATI for almost two years. They have about 50 templates per month for lead generation, nurturing, payment reminders, and class updates, and they send 20,000 to 30,000 messages a day. WATI also helps them get high-quality organic leads through the WhatsApp widget on their website.
Ho said WATI’s closest competitor is the original WhatsApp for Business app, which most small and medium-sized businesses are starting to use, but WATI is suitable for them as their business grows.
The funding will be used to contract and invest in WATI’s suite of low-code automation products. The company also has plans to enter emerging markets such as Latin America and Southeast Asia.