Meta invests in Take App, a Singaporean startup that helps merchants sell via WhatsApp – TechCrunch

WhatsApp has long transcended its roots as a simple messaging app for friends and is now an essential communication tool for businesses looking for a direct channel to their customers’ pockets, both literally and metaphorically. Countless companies have turned to the ubiquitous messaging app as they build the very foundation of their business, which hasn’t gone unnoticed by WhatsApp’s parent company.

Indeed, Meta Platforms Inc. – the megabrand behind Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp – recently invested in Take App, a young Singaporean startup founded by former Facebook engineering chief Youmin Kim, who left the social network last year to work on a new product that promises to bridge the digital divide for small business owners in Southeast Asia.

At its core, Take App serves as an easy way for those with little technical know-how to set up a simple website to facilitate online ordering, replete with a shopping cart, payments, and a direct connection to WhatsApp to manage and track the final order. .

WhatsApp order. Picture credits: Take the app

While restaurants are the focus of the Take App service, the company also works with bakeries, grocery stores, and beauty salons, among others.

“Our unique selling point is that we let merchants have direct WhatsApp conversations with customers,” Kim told TechCrunch. “Merchants love the idea that they get notifications and order details right in WhatsApp – no other apps or logins required.”

In addition to this, Take App seeks to help businesses attract loyal customers by maintaining a database, with support for creating and sending newsletters (like a “Mailchimp for WhatsApp”) that include special offers or relevant company updates.

Newsletters. Picture credits: Take the app

Although Take App’s main service is free, the company offers a set of premium features including advanced analytics, unlimited image downloads, and custom domain names.

The story so far

Kim originally launched Take App as a non-profit organization to help small restaurants in Singapore accept online orders at the start of the pandemic, but soon realized there was a significant opportunity to turn this into a commercial enterprise. Today, the company says 1,000 businesses have used Take App in 35 different markets, though the vast majority are based in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Take App also recently graduated Y Combinator (YC) as part of the accelerator’s Winter 22 batch, leading YC to invest in the company as part of a $1 million seed round. alongside Meta and an undisclosed list of angels – this seed funding round has been quietly closed. back in June.

Take App is following in the footsteps of other similar startups, such as Germany-based Charles, which recently raised $20 million to bring conversational commerce – and newsletters – to WhatsApp in Europe. It’s impossible to ignore the parallels here, but Kim argues that Take App is purpose built for a very specific type of business, in a very specific part of the world – simplicity is the name of the game.

“In Southeast Asia, WhatsApp is the most common way to talk to businesses, but it comes with heavy operational costs because employees have to respond to a number of conversations,” Kim told TechCrunch. “There are ‘Western’ CRM solutions that make this more efficient, but they are either too expensive or too difficult for our merchants. We focus on traditional businesses with a digital divide.

Lance B. Holton