October 8, 2020

MessageBird raises $200m at unicorn valuation for fresh acquisition spree

The Amsterdam-based company plans acquihires and says it is still undecided about IPO plans.

Maija Palmer

3 min read

Robert Vis, Messagebird

MessageBird, the Amsterdam-based cloud communications platform, has raised a $200m Series C funding round led by Spark Capital, most of which is earmarked for a series of acquisitions. The fundraising makes MessageBird Europe’s newest unicorn with a valuation of $3bn.

Robert Vis, founder and CEO, told Sifted he wanted to be able to move quickly to buy smaller competitors in the market amid a boom in the sector. The Covid-19 pandemic has left companies scrambling for new ways to be in touch with customers — across multiple channels from WhatsApp and SMS to WeChat and Telegram.

MessageBird, which has some 15,000 customers including companies like Lufthansa Airlines, Heinken and Deliveroo, provides software to help companies manage these multiple communications channels. Vis says he is on a mission to make transacting with your bank as easy as texting a friend.

Businesses are still stuck in very inefficient ways of communicating.

“I just want to live in a world where I can text with a business and never get stuck waiting on hold again,” said Vis. “We have all these very efficient ways of communicating with each other in our personal lives, with texts, voice notes, sharing our location, but with businesses, we are still stuck in very inefficient ways of communicating.”

Just being able to send a text message to a business is only the start, he says. “That is the easy part. The difficult part is making sure all the back-end systems work to be able to handle those messages.”

Vis said acquisitions were likely to focus on “acquihires” or smaller deals to acquire relevant technology. The funding round was also backed by Bonnier, Glynn Capital, LGT Lightstone, Longbow, Mousse Partners and New View Capita as well as existing investors Accel, Atomico, and Y-Combinator also participated in this round.

MessageBird was in June reported to be planning a stock market listing. Vis told Sifted that a decision on whether to list or not had not yet been finalised.

Whether we IPO or not is yet to be decided.

“We are running the company as if we were preparing for an IPO, but whether we will actually list or not is yet to be decided,” he said. “An IPO is not an end in itself, but a way to achieve something like access to capital, and in it easy to raise money on private markets as well.”

MessageBird’s larger US competitor Twilio now has a market valuation of more than $45bn after listing four years ago. Infobip, a Croatian rival, has also said it is eyeing an IPO.

MessageBird, which was founded in 2011, has some 400 employees expects revenues to grow 50% to €300m this year. The company is not currently profitable — with losses expected to be single-digit millions this year.

There is no benefit in talking in a bar about your valuation.

Vis, who bootstrapped the company for the first 6 years, says he has been careful to make sure MessageBird could be profitable if necessary. He’s also determined not to let the new “unicorn” status go to his head.

“In the all-hands note to staff about this tomorrow the message is very much about getting back to work,” he said. “Raising funding is not an end goal in itself and in the current climate there is no benefit in talking in a bar about your valuation. It is about the fundamentals of the business.”