MessageBird Startup Spends $100 Million in Trio of Takeovers

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Dutch software startup MessageBird has agreed to takeover video-calling technology company 24sessions and data-management firm Hull, after a surge in demand for online video services during the pandemic.

MessageBird Chief Executive Officer Robert Vis declined to say how much his company paid for either of the targets, but said it’d spent more than half of the $200 million it raised from venture capital firms in October on acquisitions. In December MessageBird also bought London-based Pusher in a deal worth about $35 million.

MessageBird was recently valued at $3 billion by investors and is expected to be ready for an initial public offering as soon as this year. It sells tools to companies that lets them add a few lines of code to their app or website so customers can text, email or call-in with questions.

A missing component was the ability to make video calls, Vis said in an interview. It was a feature frequently being requested by banks, health-care companies and insurance agencies, he said, as the pandemic accelerated the need for those businesses to transition from brick-and-mortar outlets to online.

Buying Amsterdam-based 24sessions will fill this gap, Vis said, and strengthens its competitive position against U.S. rival Twilio Inc., now valued at about $53.7 billion four years after it listed at a $1.23 billion market value.

“It doesn’t require you to install anything,” Vis said. “A bank can send you a link and it will automatically work in your browser and set up an encrypted video call.”

Vis said it was still 10-year-old MessageBird’s intention to be ready for an IPO this year, but that it was an option rather than a goal or necessity.

“The company’s been around profitability for a while and the reality that access to private capital is really good,” he said. “But we’re also not backing out of this. We’ll be ready as a company to IPO pretty soon. The question is just whether we do it.“

About 45 people will join MessageBird from 24sessions, with another 14 coming from Hull, bringing Vis’s company’s headcount to about 500 people across its 9 global hubs.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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