TECHNOLOGY

Is This Thai Mobile App Southeast Asia’s Answer to Slack?

Eko wants to revolutionize the way the region’s companies work

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BY Tricia V. Morente - 14 Mar 2017

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PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The start-ups that win are the ones most like cockroaches, declares tech entrepreneur Korawad Chearavanont. “Hard to kill, adaptable, and ready to crawl through the hardest of times and places to live,” he states matter-of-factly.

In Southeast Asia’s fast-emerging tech start-up scene, Chearavanont asserts that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. “Everything looks so much better on the outside,” he says, “but there’s a 90 percent chance you won’t make it. And whether you do, it is guaranteed to be the most stressful thing you will ever experience. Be prepared, and don’t give up no matter what. It’s such a basic principle and yet one of the hardest to do when all the storms and tides seem to be against you.”

The 23-year-old founder and CEO of mobile-first communications platform Eko, Southeast Asia’s answer to popular San Francisco-based Slack, is worth his salt. Eko, the app Chearavanont created in 2010 while attending prep school in the United States, has thus far raised a total of $6.7 million in funding from Gobi Partners, 500 Startups, and other investors. “We received our first small piece of funding in 2012—about $20,000. Around that time, it was just me and three friends from high school. We’re now a 50-strong team,” he says.

 

Slugging it out with the big guys

In an increasingly mobile-centric environment, Chearavanont’s team has proven to be quite agile—an impressive feat for a small company butting heads with traditional enterprise software vendors from both China and the rest of the world.

“We want to revolutionize the way people work,” he says, reiterating Eko’s tagline. Built with the end user in mind, Eko enables organizations of every size to migrate such work processes as daily reports, customer satisfaction reports, IT service requests, and communications onto Eko. The app has e-forms, tasks and functions built into chat, enabling a retail store organization, for example, to assign direct tasks to specific stores, remote teams, groups or individuals, track their progress, and initiate meetings on the go.

“Our product emphasizes ease of use, simplicity and similarity to what workers may already be using for their personal communications. We build with all ages in mind, taking into account that many of our users are more senior than others. The market has been highly receptive—we’re seeing significant traction in Thailand and are focused on overseas expansion,” he says.

And whereas a workplace communications platform like Slack targets small organizations or start-ups, Eko has its eyes set on a different segment of the market: companies with workforces north of thousands. “Our clients have a combined market capitalization of over $50 billion,” says Chearavanont, adding that their largest client has 150,000 employees.

What’s next for Chearavanont and his start-up? “We’re currently focused a lot on mobile, and seeing continued advances and increasing adoption in the mobile space excites us. As phones and devices become even more usable, powerful and flexible, companies can move so many more of their processes to mobile,” he says.

As Eko continues to invest “first and foremost” in enhancing its product and elevating it to the next level, Chearavanont’s dream to “build a Thai SaaS company that exports technology and innovation to other countries—something that doesn’t really exist today” inches closer and closer to reality.