WATI, a CRM tool built for WhatsApp, raises $23M led by Tiger Global • TechCrunch
WhatsApp is used by more than two billion people around the world, and it is an important tool for many small businesses. But as they get bigger, WhatsApp for Business may not even be able to keep up with their needs. This is the place What (WhatsApp Team Inbox). Built on WhatsApp for Business’ API, WATI has customer sales and engagement tools built for the messaging app. The Hong Kong and Malaysia-based startup announced today that it has raised $23 billion in Series B funding to expand its team and products.
The round was led by Tiger Global with participation from returning investors Sequoia Capital India and Southeast Asia, and new investors DST Global Partners and Shopify (marking the first legitimate investment of an e-commerce platform in a startup operating in Southeast Asia). WATI’s last funding round was $8.3 million in Series A announced 10 months ago, and its new round has brought its total to more than $35 million since 2020.
WATI founders Bianco Ho and Ken Yeung began working together in 2016, building Clare.AI, a multi-channel AI-powered digital assistant for large Asian companies. In 2020, they launched WATI to give small and medium businesses a self-service product and low-code on WhatsApp for Business API. The startup currently has more than 6,000 clients in 75 countries, including small and medium businesses in spaces such as home cleaning, schools, educational centers, educational technology, fintech, medical facilities, D2C brands, and Shopify stores.
Ho told TechCrunch that while she was working with Yeung on Clare.AI, “Our assumption was that only larger companies had the resources to deploy a successful digital assistant with AI.” After a few years of working with their clients, 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 scrambled to get online.
In many emerging markets and mature markets such as Europe, WhatsApp is the preferred communication channel between customers and businesses. WATI helps non-technical companies expand customer support, customer engagement, and customer acquisition through CRM.
WATI Customer Engagement Software is built on WhatsApp for Business’ API and allows customers to send customized notifications. The platform includes a collaborative bulk mailbox used by multiple agents, and features such as intelligent routing, ready responses, data tagging, and analytics. Interactions can be automated through low-code workflows and chat bots, and connected to e-commerce platforms and CRM systems. WATI also has integration with platforms such as Zoho, Shopify, and Google Sheets.
An example of how WATI can be used is a large e-commerce company that they rely on to run campaigns like Prime Day. The company typically receives 60-100 messages per day from clients through the WATI team inbox, most of which come from the WhatsApp chat on its website, and sends around 30,000 messages per day when campaigns are active.
Another example is an education technology customer who has used WATI for about two years. They rely on about 50 templates per month for lead generation, sponsorships, payment reminders, class updates, and send 20,000 to 30,000 messages per day. WATI also helps them to get quality organic leads through their WhatsApp tool on their website.
Ho said WATI’s closest competitor is the original WhatsApp for Business, which most small and medium-sized businesses are starting to use, but WATI is a good fit for them as their business is expanding.
The funding will be used to staff and invest in WATI’s suite of low-code automation products. The company also has plans to reach the market for emerging markets, such as Latin America and Southeast Asia