WhatsApp is used by more than two billion people worldwide, and it is an important tool for many small businesses. But as they get older, even WhatsApp for business may not be able to meet their needs. This is where WATI (WhatsApp Team Inbox) starts. Built on the API of WhatsApp for Business, WATI features customer sales and engagement tools for messaging apps. Today the Hong Kong and Malaysia-headquartered startup announced that it has raised $23 billion in Series B funding to grow its team and product.
The round was led by Tiger Global, which included returning investors Sequoia Capital India and Southeast Asia, and new investors DST Global Partners and Shopify (the e-commerce platform’s first venture investment in startups operating in the Southeast Asia region) had been involved). WATI’s final round of funding was an $8.3 million Series A announced 10 months ago, and its new round has raised its total since 2020 to more than $35 million.
WATI founders Bianco Ho and Ken Yeung began working together in 2016, creating Clare.AI, an all-channel AI digital assistant for large enterprises in Asia. In 2020, they launched WATI to deliver a self-service, low-code product to SMBs over the WhatsApp for Business API. The startup currently has over 6,000 customers in 75 countries, including home cleaning, schools, education centres, edtech, fintech, medical facilities, D2C brands and SMBs such as Shopify stores.
Ho told TechCrunch that when he and Yeung were working on Clare.AI, “our assumption was that only large enterprises had the resources to deploy a successful digital assistant with artificial intelligence.” After a few years of working with their clients, however, the two realized that many were looking for a simpler solution, so WATI was created. The reason for its launch was the digital acceleration caused by the pandemic, as many businesses rushed to go online.
In many emerging markets and mature markets such as Europe, WhatsApp is the preferred communication channel between customers and businesses. WATI helps non-tech businesses increase their customer support, customer engagement and acquisitions through its CRM.
WATI’s customer engagement software is built on the ‘WhatsApp for Business’ API and allows customers to send personalized notifications. The platform includes a collaborative team inbox to be used by multiple agents and features such as smart routing, canned responses, data tagging, and analytics. Interactions can be automated through low-code workflows and chatbots, and can be linked to e-commerce platforms and CRMs. WATI also has integration 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 like Prime Day. The company typically receives 60 to 100 messages daily from customers through WATI’s team inbox, most of which come from its website’s WhatsApp chats, and sends around 30,000 messages every day when the campaign is active.
Another example is an edtech client who has used WATI for almost two years. They rely on around 50 templates a month for lead generation, nurturing, payment reminders and class updates, and send 20,000 to 30,000 messages a day. WATI also helps them in getting high quality organic leads through the WhatsApp widget on their website.
Ho said WATI’s closest competitor is the WhatsApp for Business app, which is used by most SMBs starting out, but WATI is suitable for them as their business scales.
The funding will be used to fund hiring and investing in WATI’s product stack for low-code automation. The company also has go-to-market plans for emerging markets such as Latin America and Southeast Asia.