Agora Lab Secures Funding, Emerges from Stealth with $100M Valuation

 

Agora Lab CEO Tony Zhao
Michael Soo

By enabling mobile app developers to bake Skype-like functions directly into their apps, Agora Lab Inc. impressed investors who have backed the startup at a $100 million valuation.

Agora, which emerged from stealth Tuesday with a $20 million round to begin selling its SDK, competes against Twilio, Plivo and others that enable developers for companies including Uber and WalMart to offer communication with end users within their mobile apps by using chunks of pre-configured code.

Unlike Twilio and Plivo, however, Agora doesn’t use global telecommunication networks to deliver voice, video or text services. Like Skype, it uses the Internet to transmit data, but unlike the VOIP pioneer, Agora has no interest in being a standalone consumer app and is focused exclusively on mobile.

Agora’s sole focus is on providing a white label solution to companies like language learning startup HelloTalk Inc. others in education, financial services, customer service and other verticals where immediate and high quality communication is crucial.

Founded in Shanghai last year by communications veteran Tony Zhao, the startup relays global communication requests via 65 data centers world-wide and then uses proprietary audio technology to improve voice quality and decrease latency.

SIG China General Partner Dan Yan led the Series B investment on behalf of his firm, with participation from GGV Capital, Morningside, ShunWei, YY Inc. and IDG.

Through a translator, Mr. Yan said he believes that as mobile devices continue to improve and 4G speeds become universal, those devices will increasingly serve as the entry point for the Internet and high quality communications on mobile will become more important.

“The challenging part now is finding the right vertical so the use case will explode,” Mr. Yan said through a translator.

Agora also enables mobile and web users to share screens and exchange files. The company claims it can support as many as 2,000 users in a single session.

To learn more about Agora and its recent relocation to Palo Alto, Calif., read the story in VentureWire.

Email Lizette Chapman at lizette.chapman@wsj.com. Follow her on Twitter at @lizette_chapman