A tech startup launched by an heir to the Chearavanont family’s business empire has secured funding from the venture capital arm of Sinar Mas Group, one of Indonesia’s largest conglomerates, which is controlled by the Widjaja family.
Eko, a Bangkok-based tech company with an enterprise collaboration and messaging app, raised $20 million in a Series B funding round that was led by SMDV, the Jakarta-based technology investment unit of Sinar Mas. The startup’s existing investors, which include RedBeat Ventures (a unit of AirAsia Group), East Ventures and Gobi Partners, were also said to have participated in the latest funding round.
Eko’s 24-year-old founder and CEO, Korawad Chearavanont, says they intend to use the money to expand into Europe, the U.K. and the U.S. The company’s app is a mobile communications platform that targets companies where employees aren’t sitting at computers all day, but still need to be in touch and share information quickly and efficiently. Korawad, whose grandfather Dhanin Chearavanont is senior chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group and one of Thailand’s richest men, likens Eko to a cross between popular messaging apps Line or WhatsApp, and more traditional productivity tools that handle common business tasks.
Korawad differentiates his product from Slack and Facebook’s Workplace, two of the best-known business messaging platforms.
“Eko is more than collaboration and chats,” he explains. “Think about what happens in most companies; employees don’t always need to be collaborating, but they do need to get work done. Whether that’s tracking inventory, generating sales reports, approving vacation days, or anything else that a company does.”
Korawad says Eko can do it, and it can do it on a mobile phone, which is what most employees are most comfortable with anyway. “Eko puts operations first,” he says.
Korawad initially created Eko in his boarding school dorm room as a student group messaging service. That version of the app never took off, but it did earn Korawad a spot at Princeton-based accelerator Tigerlabs’ bootcamp, where he met Eko’s current CTO and cofounder, David Zhang. Freshly graduated from high school, Korawad hadn’t much real business experience, but by the end of the bootcamp, he and Zhang had turned their focus to creating an app built around big company needs. Korawad took a year off to build Eko, but then his parents insisted he go to college.