Protocol | Enterprise

MessageBird has a missive for Twilio: We're coming for you

A $600 million purchase of SparkPost to bolster the company's U.S. presence means stiffer competition for email services.

​MessageBird CEO Robert Vis is getting acquisitive.

MessageBird CEO Robert Vis is getting acquisitive.

Photo: MessageBird

MessageBird is spending $600 million to acquire email delivery provider SparkPost, a move that gives the largely international company a bigger foothold in the U.S. and intensifies its rivalry with Twilio.

To pay for the deal, MessageBird, which PitchBook values at $3 billion, went back to investors and raised an additional $800 million in series C funding, per CEO Robert Vis, bringing the total amount for the round to $1 billion. The deal comes just a few months after SparkPost itself nabbed $180 million in investment from LLR Partners, NewSpring Capital and PNC Bank.

"We reached a point where we all thought this would make a ton of sense. And then we didn't have the money," Vis told Protocol. "Our customers had already been asking when we were going to come with a better email offering … [but] it's hard to build a really strong email company without living and breathing it."

Similar to Twilio, MessageBird has established itself as a leading provider of tools for businesses to communicate with customers. While Twilio has a large domestic presence, Vis says MessageBird is the leader outside the U.S. That comes with advantages, like understanding the laws in certain jurisdictions. In India, for example, companies are restricted from sending messages to customers past a certain time each day, according to Vis.

But despite doing international work for clients like Uber and Facebook, MessageBird needed to capture more U.S. business. By buying SparkPost, the company ramps up its user base to 25,000 business customers, adding well-known names like Disney, Adobe and J.P. Morgan. While that is clearly a shot at Twilio, Vis said the deal has nothing to do with the competitive landscape.

"We're the leader in the international markets," said Vis. "In the U.S., completely different story. This isn't a move against Twilio or any of other competitors. This is a very clear market move from us into the U.S."

On paper, MessageBird is behind — at least, compared to Twilio — in offering robust email communication tools, given the prevalence of the medium and its ubiquitous use among companies to interact with customers. While Vis says MessageBird has been eyeing the space, it was constrained by a lack of suitable acquisition targets, particularly after Twilio bought SendGrid in 2018 for $2 billion.

It's the latest in a string of acquisitions for MessageBird. It recently bought videoconference provider 24sessions, data platform vendor Hull and API dealer Pusher, which together totaled a much lower price tag of $100 million. Now SparkPost, which it was still able to nab for a bargain compared to what Twilio paid for SendGrid, helps plug a major gap for MessageBird. It now has the means to reach customers across multiple channels, including text, email, video and live chat.

The deal also gives MessageBird powerful analytics, according to Vis, a service that SparkPost actually licenses out to competitors. (Vis declined to say if SparkPost licenses the software to SendGrid.)

"This is something we have wanted to do for a while," said Vis. "The importance of email is getting into the inbox. And that is something that SparkPost can do better than competitors."

Protocol | Fintech

How European fintech startup N26 is preparing for U.S. regulations

"There's a lot more scrutiny being placed on fintech. We are definitely mindful of it."

In an interview with Protocol, Stephanie Balint, N26's U.S. general manager, discussed the company's approach to regulations in the U.S.

Photo: N26

N26's monster $900 million funding round announced Monday underlined the German startup's momentum in the digital banking market.

Stephanie Balint, N26's U.S. general manager, said the funding will be used for expansion and also to improve "our core offering to make this the most reliable bank that our customers can trust," she told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Silver

Kate Silver is an award-winning reporter and editor with 15-plus years of journalism experience. Based in Chicago, she specializes in feature and business reporting. Kate's reporting has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic's CityLab, Atlas Obscura, The Telegraph and many other outlets.

Apple’s new MacBooks are the future — and the past

After years of reinventing the wheel, Apple's back to just building really good ones.

Apple brought back the ports.

Photo: Apple

The 2015 Pro was, by most accounts, one of the best laptops Apple ever made. It was fast and functional, and it had a great screen, a MagSafe charger, plenty of ports, a great keyboard and solid battery life. If you walked around practically any office in Silicon Valley, you'd see Pros everywhere.

Many of those users have been holding on to their increasingly old and dusty 2015 Pros, too, because right about when that computer came out was when Apple seemed to lose its way in the laptop market. It released the 12-inch MacBook, an incredibly thin and light computer that made a bunch of changes — a new keyboard and trackpad design chief among them — that eventually made their way around the rest of the MacBook lineup. Then came the Touch Bar, Apple's attempt to build an entirely new user interface into a laptop.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Image: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Imagine a company where there are no meetings — just time for deep, focused work punctuated by short conversations on Slack and project updates on Trello.

Now imagine a company where the no-meeting ethos is so ingrained that it's possible to work there for 10 years without ever speaking face-to-face with a single coworker, and for your boss to not even recognize the sound of your voice.

Keep Reading Show less
Michelle Ma
Michelle Ma (@himichellema) is a reporter at Protocol, where she writes about management, leadership and workplace issues in tech. Previously, she was a news editor of live journalism and special coverage for The Wall Street Journal. Prior to that, she worked as a staff writer at Wirecutter. She can be reached at mma@protocol.com.
Protocol | Workplace

#AppleToo activist says Apple fired her for deleting apps from her devices

Janneke Parrish says she was dismissed after deleting Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive from her work devices during an investigation inside the company.

The Apple Too movement is trying to organize Apple workers into a collective movement.
Photo: Bloomberg via Getty

Unlike most other companies, Apple asks that its employees use their work phones like personal ones — and for five years, Apple program manager Janneke Parrish did as she was told. But last week, when Apple asked Parrish for her devices in an internal investigation, she was afraid Apple would see her personal and private information. She disobeyed orders and deleted apps like Robinhood, Pokemon Go and Google Drive. Then Apple fired her.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Latest Stories