We talked to Huy Dau of Stringee about building SMS, and video calls into the web and mobile apps and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Huy Dau: Thanks for your question. The Vietnamese government has well-controlled the pandemic; hence our daily activities are going back regularly. It was just a short time when our family and company members had to stay at home. After that, we went back to school and work. However, we are strictly following the government’s public health regulations to ensure low risk of the spreading.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Stringee.
Huy Dau: In 2010, with the bachelor degree of a high – quality engineering program, I worked for the biggest telco in Vietnam and got a lot of experience in building communication infrastructure for millions of users.
Back to that date, messaging apps became popular all over the world, my friend Luan Nguyen and I, launched Bomchat – a free messaging app in Vietnam. The app quickly became widely known; however, we found that our main obstacle was the competence against big telecommunication corporations who can spend millions of dollars in acquiring users. But we could not compete with the huge marketing investment of the other big corporation to acquire users.
Therefore, in 2017, we turned our target from end-users into business customers and supplied them with a communication platform – Stringee.
How does Stringee innovate?
Huy Dau: We started Stringee with the idea of helping developers or businesses easily integrate communication features such as voice call/video call/SMS/chat API into their website/mobile apps. By communication APIs, we help businesses solve 3 main problems: shortening development time from years to hours, saving cost, and ensuring the stable quality of call/video.
When a company integrates Stringee APIs into their mobile app/website, instead of dialing up, their customers can have a click on the call button available on the app/website at a fingertip. The call is then automatically connected to the operator’s calling center, where the salesperson using Stringee APIs app to communicate with them. At the same time, other information between the salesperson and customers is automatically sorted out and stored.
Together with communication APIs, Stringee provides Programmable Contact Center API, providing the ability to set up and configure their Contact Center in an easy way, including Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) settings, etc.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Huy Dau: The pandemic has affected our customers whose industries are services, travel, education, sales, commerce, etc. Many of them are struggling with financial problems. Therefore, in this situation, they must cut their budgets using our platforms, which decreases our revenue. Besides, we are hardly accessing VCs or other funds for investment.
Despite the difficulty, we are still trying our best to support our customers with a discount policy. We are also considering other, more affordable marketing channels to balance the tight budget at the moment.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Huy Dau: We had to admit that the pandemic has affected our revenue and access to external investments. At this time, I know that we have to make sure that we will not be out of money. I had to decide to reduce our employee’s salary. I met my employee in person to announce a pay cut and talked with them about the situation to make sure that we speak with one voice. Fortunately, my employees understood, and most of them stayed with the company.
I learnt a lesson that putting your employees in your priority and they will never leave you.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Huy Dau: The global communication platform market is estimated to be worth nearly 18 billion dollars by 2022, with a growth rate of 30% per year. The communication platform field is competitive and has the participation of large and long-standing corporations such as CISCO, Twilio, Nexmo. However, the current communication platform demand is extremely diverse.
This market grows very fast, so it will create many opportunities for startups to develop. We believe that with our high stability, good quality, and reasonable price, we will surely have our own market.
Your final thoughts?
Huy Dau: The covid-19 crisis has impacted businesses differently, but we’re all in this boat together. Let’s just hope that 2021 will be better.