Business Insider Edition

This massively successful South African start-up may list in the US next year

Helena Wasserman , Business Insider SA
 Dec 04, 2018, 06:37 PM
Pieter de Villiers, CEO of Clickatell
Pieter de Villiers, CEO of Clickatell
  • South African start-up Clickatell is considering listing in the US next year to help finance its break-neck expansion.
  • The company helps businesses communicate with their clients via SMS and Whatsapp.
  • Last year, it delivered 3 billion cellphone messages across Africa.

In 2000, Cape Town optometrist Pieter de Villiers and his twin brother Casper, along with two other South Africans, founded a start-up called Clickatell.

The company helped businesses communicate with their clients via SMS messages. Clickatell since partnered with WhatsApp, and creates mobile solutions for a range of companies.  With the United Bank of Africa, Clickatell recently enabled the first “chat banking” service via WhatsApp in Nigeria this year. Absa also partnered with Clickatell to launch its ChatBanking service this year.

clickatell
An example of WhatsApp-based 'chat banking'. (Clickatell)

Last year, Clickatell delivered almost 3 billion messages across Africa, 42% more than a year ago. It also now counts the global retail giants IKEA and Target, as well as Ericsson and Fujitsu among its clients.

Ten years ago, as the company exploded, Clickatell moved to San Francisco and got financial backing from one of the top Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Sequoia Capital. (South African Roelof Botha, former chief financial officer of PayPal, is a Sequoia partner.)

It is now considering listing on a US stock exchange next year, CEO Pieter de Villiers told Reuters in an interview this week.

“The markets around us are growing fast. It makes sense for us to do capital raising in 2019, maybe in (the first and second quarters),” de Villiers told Reuters. More than 1.5 billion people in 180 countries now use WhatsApp.

“We could certainly list in the US provided we felt that the company would get enough attention given market cap and size,” he said. He added that, “given the momentum” in the business, private equity could also be an option.

According to the Reuters report, Clickatell has been profitable every year for almost a decade and is on track for year-on-year revenue growth of more than 30% this year. “We’ve had double-digit growth for quite some time. This year in particular is a good year,” De Villiers said.

The company still has an office in Cape Town, as well as in Nigeria and Canada.

Now read: You can turn your teller into a pirate, and other cool hacks on Absa’s new WhatsApp banking

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