SendBird, a platform that makes it easy for developers to integrate chat and messaging features into their apps, is extending its service to include voice and video capabilities too. The timing could not be more apt, as video communication apps such as Zoom and Houseparty experience a surge in popularity due to social distancing measures introduced as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Founded in 2013, San Mateo-based SendBird develops the software infrastructure that allows any app to offer services such as messaging and group chats. For context, countless companies, from ride-sharing services to online games, also rely on services that enable two or more people to chat in real time. These companies could develop the infrastructure themselves, but this is resource-intensive and requires specific expertise — which is why they typically pay third parties such as Twilio and SendBird to access their infrastructure via an API instead.
SendBird has raised $120 million since its inception, with investors including Tiger Global Management and wealth management firm Iconiq Capital, which includes big-name backers such as Mark Zuckerberg.
Up until now, SendBird was mostly focused on chat services, though it did have a VoIP offering that allowed developers to integrate recorded audio features into their apps. With voice and video APIs now a core part of its service, any app-maker can offer real-time voice- and video-calling via SendBird too.
According to SendBird, developers can integrate its new voice and video APIs in as little as 15 minutes, and it already has some big-name clients on board for the beta launch including Virgin Mobile.
As confirmed COVID-19 cases approach the half-a-million mark globally, with more than 22,000 deaths, social distancing is widely accepted as the most effective solution to curtailing the spread. This week Facebook reported a 70% surge in people participating in group video calls in Messenger, while the time spent on those group video calls doubled.
The COVID-19 outbreak is also having a major impact on commerce, with companies such as Amazon and other online delivery services seeing unprecedented demand as people restrict their forays into the outside world. Whether this has a longer-term shift in consumer behavior remains to be seen, but as more people become accustomed to communicating through voice, video, and messaging inside apps this could drive demand for such services across the spectrum, be that dating, gaming, customer service, and more.
Indeed, SendBird already claims some notable customers in the on-demand services realm, including Asian Uber rival Go-Jek and Delivery Hero, while other big-name customers include the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Paytm.
“With every e-commerce transaction, every grocery delivery, every attempt to connect with a potential match on a dating service, human interactions are increasingly taking place in-app,” SendBird CEO and founder John Kim said.