Mobiz, SA’s Mailchamp for SMS marketing nets first $1m in a $2m round

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Mobiz, a South African SMS marketing engagement platform, has raised $1-million from SA venture capital (VC) firm Kalon Venture Partners, as part of a $2-million pre-Series A round.

Mobiz was founded by Greg Chen (pictured above) and Clark Lin in 2014.

The Cape Town based startup’s platform — which is currently used by large companies such as Home Choice, the Lewis Group, Multichoice and Momentum — allows clients to send customers personalised SMS’s, in much the same way as users are able to send marketing emails via MailChimp.

In an emailed newsletter earlier this month Ian Lessem, the CEO of Cape Town based VC HAVAIC, said his VC’s investment committee had approved an investment in the startup.

Mobiz has raised $1m from SA venture capital firm Kalon Venture Partners, with more promised by another VC, HAVAIC

Chen confirmed to Ventureburn in a call today that HAVAIC had committed to invest in the startup and revealed that the VC would also put $1-million in the startup.

‘Growing 30% a month’

Using the Mobiz platform clients are able to send SMSes that then arrives in a client’s inbox looking similar to a MMS. By clicking on a link, customers are then sent to a webpage where they are able to view the message.

The messages are zero-rated for data costs, because the startup effectively gets the client to cover the data costs.

Like this, the startup claims it is able to achieve a customer engagement rate that is four times that of traditional marketing channels such as email, paid advertisements and printed catalogues, with 98% open rates and an average of 15% click-through rates.

Chen said the company is currently “cash-positive”, with revenue growing 30% month on month — or four times since September last year. The startup currently has a team of 14 and has just made two new hires, he added.

He reckons part of the recent growth might be linked to the closure of local call centres because of the coronavirus and to clients therefore having to rely more heavily on SMS messaging than before.

The prior experience and ongoing achievements of Chen and Clark, whose history in the mobile technology space dates back to 2005, was one of the main reasons for the decision from Kalon Venture Partners, to invest.

Commented Kalon Venture Partners CEO Clive Butkow in an earlier statement: “Mobiz isn’t only the perfect product for this time, but will also prove instrumental in helping rebuild in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis”.

The startup may have put in place remote-working standards some time ago, but Chen admitted that the recent two weeks since staff began working from home due to the coronavirus had been “more fruitful than we thought it would be”.

Looking to the US

Chen and Lin were recently accepted into one of the top enterprise revenue-focused accelerators in the world, The Alchemist Accelerator.

Voted the best accelerator in 2016, startups that go through this San Francisco accelerator led by Ravi Belani raised a median of $8.1-million in funding.

For Chen the coming days will be long ones. The cohort, which kicks off on Thursday (2 April), is now being as a virtual programme — meaning he will have to endure long Zoom calls between 5pm to 12pm for the coming weeks.

The accelerator’s staff reckon that by June things may be all clear, but Chen isn’t so sure.

Still, he hopes to get to the US soon.

“A big part of this programme is about raising investment in US, so we need to be there sooner or later,” he said.

For now he’ll have to stay put and service his clients’ growing need to communicate to their customers via SMS. This lockdown may be far from over.

Featured image: Mobiz CEO and co-founder Greg Chen (Supplied)

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