Jay CabozBy Jay Caboz|March 2, 2022|8 Minutes|In Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow

More jobs for African engineers in $91 million assault on $80 billion market. 

From humble beginnings in an apartment in the shadow of Table Mountain entrepreneur Pieter de Villiers and friends built Clickatell. Now it’s raised $91 million and is going to take on the US from Cape Town. 

It took months of anxious waiting and now its here. This week African born Clickatell stood on the springboard of expansion celebrating a massive injection of capital.

The expansion will be driven by a $91 million Series C fund raising round.

What a contrast from humble beginnings of Clickatell in a tiny flat in Cape Town 22 years ago. This once tiny business is not so tiny anymore. It plans to pour its millions in new investment into fighting for a bigger slice of the US market. Part of its plan for a global empire with billions of customers.

Clickatell is just one of several African companies to secure funding in February. Among them were West African unicorn Flutterwave (now valued at over $3 billion) announcing a $250 million in Series D funding and mobile fintech firm Moove Africa with $10 million. In the last week of February, retail fintech start-up MarketForce landed $40 million in Series A funding

In 2019, Clickatell was the first to launch chat banking, bringing banking services functionality to chat channels. Our successes would not be possible without the trust and collaboration of our customers, some of Africas largest and most successful companies in the world,

Pieter de Villiers, CEO Clickatell.

On the back of growing demand and several years of double-digit profit growth, Clickatell plans to accelerate development of its Chat Commerce offering as well as expand further into the United States.

For Africa this will mean jobs. The company will hunt for over 200 engineers, says Pieter de Villiers.De Villiers outlined the company will not only be looking to grow its market influence on the continent but will continue to invest in addressing the gap in digital skills on the continent.

“In 2019, Clickatell was the first to launch chat banking, bringing banking services functionality to chat channels. Our successes would not be possible without the trust and collaboration of our customers, some of Africa’s largest and most successful companies in the world,” said de Villiers.

From a tiny Cape Town apartment de Villiers, along with his brother Casper, and two friends Danie du Toit and Patrick Lawson, found a way to sendfour lines of code from their computer to a cell phone over text message – a world first.

Fast forward to 2022 and the world we live in is a far cry from the one that Clickatell was born in. The business is now headquartered in the USA, but the biggest contingent of developers are still in Africa.

They’re in more than 220 territories, with over 1,000 networks and able to access 85% of the world’s population, including a cool 5 billion users via SMS, almost half of the world’s population. During the Covid-19 pandemic alone, the company says it processed more than 30 billion interactions and 2 billion commerce transactions alone

All of this will be concentrating on the Chat Commerce market. De Villiers says they will focus on the third big wave of digital commerce, expanding both the eCommerce and App Commerce markets by targeting the intersection between Chat communications and Digital Commerce.

“Chat Commerce is the future of digital commerce and engagement – it’s already happening at scale in markets such as China – and soon every consumer in the US will engage family and friends via chat plus connect, interact and transact with the brands they love through their favourite chat platform; and we are excited to be a leader in this digital engagement revolution,” said de Villiers.

The Chat market is estimated to be valued at more than $80 billion, following the eCommerce and App Commerce markets.

As a digital platform it is the largest in the world, with 7.7 billion users compared to 4.7 billion internet users, making it next to impossible for businesses to operate without communicating and transacting with consumers in chat channels.

Clickatell’s chat technology has enabled nearly 9 billion chat messages and processed over 500 million payments from leading brands like Coca Cola, Deloitte, GT Bank, Booking.com, GoDaddy, IKEA, Novartis, Standard Bank, Tangerine, Telegram, US Foods, Visa, Zipcar and Capitec.

The business has grown so much there is even talk of them building Clickatell into a $1 billion tech giant, reports TechCentral.

“For us size matters in terms of making a positive impact in the world. That’s what we are chasing as opposed to that number. As founders we never went out to become billionaires or to do it for the money side. But we do like talking about billions…as in the next billion digital customers are not going to come from the United States or Europe, they’re going to come from Africa and places like Africa,” de Villiers said previously to Billionaire Tomorrow.

Clickatell investors now include Arrowroot Capital, Kennedy Lewis Investment Management, Sequoia Capital, DAG Ventures, Endeavor Global and Harvest.

“With 93% of conversations that transpire on its Chat Commerce Platform ending in a transaction, Clickatell is sure to continue to make waves in this growing sector. We’re delighted to support them on their way to becoming the category-defining, global leader in Chat Commerce,” said Matt J. Safaii, Founder and Managing Partner at Arrowroot Capital.

“Clickatell is an inspiring example of how a company from South Africa can pull the future forward. Clickatell was the pioneering company that successfully first sent messages from the internet to mobile phones, and today they power some of the biggest names in communications, like WhatsApp,” said Endeavor Catalyst Managing Director Allen Taylor.