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Thursday 18 September 2014

Irish messaging startup close to $20m funding round

Published 01/03/2014 | 22:38

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A four-month old Irish online messaging startup is close to finalising around $20m (€14.5m) in funding -- one of the highest amounts in the world this year -- just a week after Facebook’s €14bn acquisition of messaging firm WhatsApp. The meteoric rise of Kwikdesk, which is co-founded by Kevin Abosch, Connor Murphy and David Coallier, is set to result in one of the biggest global funding deals for a tech startup so far this year.

A four-month old Irish online messaging startup is close to finalising around $20m (€14.5m) in funding -- one of the highest amounts in the world this year -- just a week after Facebook’s €14bn acquisition of messaging firm WhatsApp.

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The meteoric rise of Kwikdesk, which is co-founded by Kevin Abosch, Connor Murphy and David Coallier, is set to result in one of the biggest global funding deals for a tech startup so far this year.

Kwikdesk’s messaging platform service has seen strong interest from telecoms companies for the technology behind its service.

Kwikdesk’s ‘Series A’ funding round comes as telecoms operators scramble to incorporate online messaging systems, which are sinking their network-based SMS text and phone call revenues.

“We launched in China in November and straight away there was real interest in Asia,” said Kevin Abosch. “There are almost a billion Chinese netizens. It really struck a chord with people in Hong Kong who responded to Kwikdesk’s ability to give communication opportunities to people who might have difficulty with other messaging routes, for various reasons.”

Kwikdesk is an internet communication platform that requires no login or password and stores no database of users' identities. Users enter messages identified only by hashtags, which can be searched for, and a date for the deletion of messages is entered. The anonymity of the service is seen as attractive in countries where communications are heavily monitored or censored.

Mr Abosch, who is also a noted photographer, declined to identify the funders as the deal is not yet finalised. He said that the web application was a “proof of concept” for underlying technology that telecoms operators are keen to utilise.

“Our technology appeals to telecoms companies,” said Mr Abosch. “The idea that some of our products could be rolling out with mobile phone companies is an exciting one for us. It’s of interest to mobile telcos in developing companies because it doesn’t require much bandwidth.”

Mr Abosch said that the startup is now hiring engineers and other technical specialists to expand Kwikdesk’s product base and to establish a main headquarters in Dublin.

Mr Abosch’s Kwikdesk co-founders include Connor Murphy, co-founder of Kerry-based cloud firm Datahug and David Coallier, a data scientist at Dublin-based cloud firm Engine Yard.

Telecoms firms are currently scrambling to incorporate online messaging systems. The decline of traditional SMS text-messaging and network phone calling revenues has coincided with the rapid rise of online alternatives such as WhatsApp, SnapChat and Viber. Ten days ago, Facebook paid €14bn for WhatsApp, an online messaging service with 450m active users.

“A big thing for me is reducing the friction in communication generally,” said Mr Abosch. “Our platform is there to facilitate communication to people without the fear or risk or reprisal from governments or society or peers. The big picture here is that the future of online social communication is going to be a hybrid of the attributed and the anonymous. So far, these have have pretty much been mutually exclusive. We want to be the platform that bridges these two together and we’re finding appreciation for solving this.”

There is currently a gold rush currently underway to acquire innovative online messaging technology. In January, Dublin-based enterprise messaging firm Intercom raised €17m. Soon after, another Dublin-based firm, Cleverbug, raised over €4m in funding for its bespoke greetings technology.

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