In June 2000, a small Cape Town start-up revolutionised digital communications. The dream began when four friends, including co-founder and CEO, Pieter de Villiers, wrote four lines of code which allowed anyone to send an SMS from the internet to a mobile phone.

Understanding the power of what they had created, which was the ability for the fastest growing commerce platform at the time – the internet – to communicate with the fastest growing communications platform ever – the mobile phone, Clickatell enjoyed rapid growth and was soon recognised as a thought leader at the intersection of communication and commerce. While the company was founded in Cape Town, South Africa, its go-to-market strategy was to deliver services via a self-serve API (Application Programming Interface) accessible through the internet and it soon reached customers in the UK, India, US and elsewhere around the world.

Since then, the company has grown its global footprint to now serve customers in more than 220 territories, with its Chat Commerce Platform that is able to reach up to 90% of the world’s population, equating to approximately 7 billion users.

Clickatell’s core values include that of curiosity and creativity and this enables the business to continually explore new ways of helping brands serve their customers better. Today, Clickatell clients are able to connect, interact and transact with their customers where they are, within the global chat platforms they use every day (such as SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.) in a convenient manner.

“The glue that binds us together has always been our belief that we can harness technology to make the world a better place and we manifest that belief by helping brands do better for their customers. From a living room in Cape Town at the turn of the millennium to our offices in Silicon Valley, Toronto, Cape Town, and Lagos, we have remained laser focused on our vision of a world where delightful customer experiences are the norm,” explains de Villiers. “Our team is constantly pushing design boundaries and are the finest example of South African creativity and innovation. In 2019, Clickatell made history again when we were one of the first to launch chat banking on WhatsApp. Together with the Absa Group, we delivered banking service functionality to the world’s largest chat platform, taking another step towards achieving South Africa’s financial inclusion goals.” Shortly thereafter, the company went on to also launch Chat Commerce over WhatsApp, another global first; enabling customers to use their credit cards to make payments quickly and securely as part of a chat commerce journey within the telecoms sector.

Pieter De Villiers, Co-Founder & CEO Clickatell And Chairman Of Simodisa

Chat transcends industry and geographic boundaries
The Chat Commerce market is viewed as the third big wave of digital commerce, following the eCommerce and App Commerce markets. Unsurprisingly, Clickatell sees itself as uniquely positioned to capitalise on the intersection between communications (CPaaS, CCaaS) and commerce (digital payments) through its complete end-to-end Chat Commerce Platform.

“By enabling payments over chat, Clickatell has opened the doors of convenience across industry sectors. From technology start-ups to Fortune 500 companies looking to deliver services to their customers safely and affordably, Clickatell is constantly adding use cases to its offering and proving it can deliver value to brands across industry sectors,” de Villiers explains.

Clickatell’s technical innovation is also attracting the attention of industry watchers, most recently Gartner, which recognised Clickatell as a “Who’s Who in CPaaS Payments and How They Are Going About It” within their “Digital Payments as Part of Communications Platform as a Service Offering” report.

A long-term vision grounded in grassroots activation
While keeping a weather eye on the company’s growth trajectory and technical roadmap, de Villiers has not forgotten his roots. For the last few years, he has been instrumental in bringing like-minded industry
leaders together to help solve one of South Africa’s biggest challenges and opportunities – the skills gap and the digital skills gap in particular.

As co-founder and Chairman of NGO (www.SiMODiSA.org), de Villiers is helping to coordinate the public and private sector efforts to boost local digital skills. Through the TechXit Collective, the initiative hopes to design South Africa’s digital skills supply chain required to create a thriving technology sector which it believes is the answer to youth unemployment and upliftment.

“This may sound like a grand ideal, but through my work with Clickatell over the last two decades, I have seen just what is possible when you find and nurture a team of passionate, creative individuals from all walks of life. We would never have achieved the many world-firsts without the creative and technical vision that comes with a diverse and culturally rich group of individuals who share the common dream of making our world better, we are truly #StrongerTogether,” he sums up.


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