The conventional wisdom going into 2016 was that chat apps and email apps were pretty much dead. Might there still be ways to innovate with email? Sure, but the experts agree that it was unlikely that anyone was going to outdo the dominance Google (and to a lesser extent Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, Apple and various cable firms nationwide) already enjoy.
And while chat apps were a somewhat livelier field even as recently as 2010, as of the end of 2015 most were saying the market was for the most part shut down. When even the biggest name startups in the segment like Snapchat started reporting down rounds, the conventional wisdom started to shift to the idea that chat innovation had hit its peak and was now in decline.
However, with every prediction made, one can usually rely on a counter example to show up to contravene the conventional wisdom.
And RedKix has just shored up $17 million in seed funding from some very big-name investors to attempt to buck said conventional wisdom.
RedKix has an idea somewhat comparable to Slacks insofar as it hopes to innovate the way workers manage their tasks by creating a better way to merge email and chat functions. It does this by sitting atop a worker’s various email accounts (it currently supports Microsoft Exchange, Office 365 and Google Apps accounts) and allowing users to interact with anyone on any of their contact lists (whether or not that user is also signed on for RedKix).
But RedKix works better when both users are also signed in to RedKix, as typing indicators, read receipts, and real-time messaging all become options. RediKix users can also dispense with email functions and opt for “subjectless” chats that are structurally similar to Slack Channels, though are still based around various email functionality.
And while it might sound like it should be be easy or obvious, as it turns out, notes founder and CEO Oudi Antebi, the challenges are bigger than one might assume as consumers want to easily reach out and chat across email platforms.
“Making email real-time is a massive challenge,” he said. “Separate inboxes don’t know about the existence of one another, for example.”
But challenging though it may be, Antebi notes that it is just the open climb in what they are hoping is a long trip to the summit. RedKix’s ultimate goal is as an enterprise application, meaning that it needs play well with others en masse to cater to other email policies, other security and retention features, and other admins with other systems built directly into an enterprise’s digital backbone.
“We are very IT-friendly,” Antebi noted. “Everything we do is fully synced with your email service.”
It is also, he added, full customizable, meaning individual firms will have the ability to use their own control tools in its enterprise edition. And also hopefully fully integrable with third-party services (think chatbots) in much the way Slack is pursuing.
RedKix put together a rather jaw-dropping seed round of $17 million that includes Salesforce Ventures, Wicklow Capital, SG VC, Oren Zeev, Ori Sasson (which was one of the first investors in VMware), and more.
Antebi noted in an interview with TechCrunch that the large seed round is justified by the complexity of the technology the firm is developing.
Complex or not, though, it remains to be seen if the enterprise world is really looking for a smarter, more flexible and chat-enabled email solution. If it does, RedKix might just win the title for the surprise innovation no one knew they needed.
Investments for the week ended 7-15-16
Nearly $4 billion of investment activity led the week that ended July 8, with a continuing trend of outsized deals tipping the scales at a few billion dollars, followed up by a series of smaller transactions.
We’ve been seeing this same bifurcation, but it stood on its head in the latest week, with B2B carrying the weight of the deal flow, and FinTech relatively lighter.
Drilling down a bit, it’s easy to see what held sway. The biggest deal of the week came as KKR agreed to buy Epicor Software from Apax Partners. The deal is slated to be completed late next month. The firm makes enterprise resource planning and retail management software. The $3.3 billion price tag represents a hefty profit for Apax, which bought Epicor for $1 billion.
Much further down the totem pole appears Qufenqi, which, backed by Ant Financial, grabbed $449 million in for a pre-IPO investment backing from Beijing Phoenix Wealth Holding and Hangzhou Liaison Interactive Information Technology.
Looking at equity raises a bit further, Neogrowth, based in India, raised $35 million to help expand efforts in the country to extend loans to those who have little or no credit history. That funding round was led by IIFL Asset Management.
With two quarters behind us thus far in 2016, we can see that the U.S. continues to dominate in the regional breakout of investments – and shall we expect that trend to continue in the wake of the instability in Europe?