Pam’s answering the phone at Dunder Mifflin has become one of the most notoriously rejected things in life at The Office, and it’s really no wonder that she did: Businesses large and small have long been on communications as have PBXs, voice mail, cold and warm calls, and customer helplines And most recently the inescapable cell phone is always with you. All of that has changed, slowly but surely, and today one startup that hopes to be a pioneer in disrupting that tune is announcing some funding as it finds some growth, currently delivering about 10 million calls and messages per month to its customers.
OpenPhone, which provides a line of business and related telephone services to users via a smartphone application, which in turn becomes a user business phone separate from their own mobile phones, has raised $40 million, a Series B investment that will continue to expand its communication and collaboration services, and build the integration of Go deeper with other productivity tools their customers already use.
Tiger Global – known in the adventure world for big growth rounds but more recently becoming more active in early stage, smaller investments – leads this Series B, with former backers Craft Ventures, Slow Ventures, Garage Capital and Worklife Ventures among those also taking part. Craft led OpenPhone’s $14 million Series A in 2020, with Slow leading earlier that year. Prior to that, the company previously passed Y Combinator back in 2018. It has raised $56 million so far.
OpenPhone founders Mahyar Raissi and Daryna Kulya, respectively from Iran and Ukraine and also married to each other, are well aware that they are not the first to consider re-imagining the humble business phone system.
Over the years, PBXs and basic phones have been replaced by IP PBXs and IP phones; Telecom companies and managed service providers have been subjected to many stabs of the vague concept of “unified communications” around it; Meanwhile, OTT solutions like Zoom and other web-based video conferencing solutions are so easy to use (and still give people voice-based and telephony options) that they’ve taken up a lot of conference calling, and Skype has built In and Out lines to meet the needs of Those who are self-employed or work alone mostly.
Many people have stopped listening to voicemail messages, and so messages have become a larger part of the equation; Call centers try to make it more difficult to contact them (and they can be really frustrated when you reach them); Some have given up landlines entirely to just use their cell phones to handle all business calls; and so on and so on.
In this context, the unique selling point that OpenPhone brings to the market, Raissi tells me, is that it has created a system that caters to the needs of small and medium businesses and adds elements of all of the above, in a format that represents the lowest friction of them all: an app that you can use with your regular phone, but that gives the person A dedicated business phone number, and a growing number of associated tools that he can use to communicate with colleagues and clients.
He said that in the US – which is the main market for San Francisco-based OpenPhone at the moment – Google’s phone could potentially be a major competitive threat to the company, but that it didn’t offer customer support to users, putting it out of the running to tackle a larger wave of business. Unlike early users of a single user.
The company, as you might imagine with its startup YC, has found its first attraction with other entrepreneurs passing through YC, and has grown with its users. Al Raisi said the company’s “ideal niche” today is between five and 500 employees, and to serve those particularly large organizations, it is gradually bringing in more services such as PBX alternatives, and is building integration with its CRM and sales software in place.
“One of the big goals is to invest in mergers,” Kolya said. “For example. One key piece is connecting OpenPhone to CRMs.” She said that at the end of the day, all of a person’s interactions via OpenPhone can also be automatically logged into the CRM that the team uses to keep track of everything there. It’s also a reason why this is unlikely to be an area in which OpenPhone is investing in building its own CRM tools. She said the first merger will be with Salesforce, with Zendesk and others soon as well.
The core of modern collaboration is conversation these days, and OpenPhone wants to be a part of that conversation, so to speak. The idea is to bring some of the spirit of services like Slack into the mobile environment.
Al Raisi said, “We are building phone services for how people use phones today, so messaging is really important and so is collaboration around a phone number. You can have a shared number for a team and can easily collaborate on texting and activities. We bring collaboration to the phone.”