Sydney-based startup Upwire expands to the US to change the way companies communicate with customers

Ben Brophy, Upwire

Upwire co-founder Ben Brophy. Source: Supplied.

Sydney-based startup Upwire is taking its drag-and-drop communication platform to the Silicon Valley tech giants, establishing an office in San Francisco after working closely with Google to develop its cloud-based platform.

The launch of the San Francisco office — set to open in the coming weeks — coincides with the global launch of the Upwire platform, which is billed as a way to help businesses build voice, SMS and email customer communication systems without coding knowledge. Upwire grew out of SMS technology startup Zync and was launched in beta testing mode in 2016.

Upwire co-founder Ben Brophy says expanding to the US is a crucial step for the startup because “demand for our product has been ridiculous”. 

“Sixty percent of our revenue is from America to date — we’ve been growing ridiculously and need a team over there to support that,” Brophy says.

Upwire wants to capitalise on the size of the US market, adding to a customer base that already includes the likes of QBE, Computershare and FlexiGroup.

Upwire’s “very close relationship with Google” developed as Upwire built out its cloud-based enterprise platform and has seen a “two-way relationship” emerge, according to Brophy, who hopes to work with other tech giants in San Francisco. 

“We see them [Google] as a cloud provider, they see us a facilitator of the tech they create,” Brophy says. 

“Lots of tech companies … look at our platform because they know what they build today is obsolete tomorrow. They need to continually evolve the communication side of their business,” he says. 

Brophy predicts Upwire will see a 500% increase in revenue in the next 12 months from US customer demand, with the startup already boasting a 250% increase in text messaging, 300% growth in voice minute traffic, and 500% increase in emails through the platform in the past year.

The San Francisco office will launch with eight staff but Brophy is eager to keep the office small, bringing on “10-15 people max” to remain tight-knit.

“We want to stay as a smaller tech company — traditionally tech businesses require a lot of IT, but with cloud infrastructure Google pay that for you. We can [instead] be a business looking at innovation and development rather than spending resources looking at [IT] services,” he says.   

Upwire is also now eyeing off offices in Austin, Texas, to house its “sales-style” team, according to Brophy.

Comparing ecosystems

The size of the US market makes it a natural draw for Australian startups seeking to expand their customer base, according to Brophy.

“The US is an enormous market — one [US] customer is worth 20 Australian customers when you look at the size of their consumption and their population,” Brophy says.

But despite the lure of the US, Brophy says he is saddened by the number of local startups that move overseas.

Brophy describes the current state of the Australian ecosystem as “questionable”; he believes it requires “far more government support” in “cutting red tape and getting R&D grants” to keep startups from going overseas to build their business.   

He says that the Australian ecosystem has a “lot of barriers, a lot of red tape, a lot of admin to get over that” and that it is “difficult when focusing on a product and platform to get over these arduous tasks”.

“It’s sad — so much talent from Australia moves to the US and UK — there’s a lot of support there and not much support here [for startups]” he says.

With many Australian startups venturing overseas, Brophy says founders shouldn’t become discouraged when faced with challenges and “really dark days”.

“Learn from your failures and keep on going — don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t going to work,” he says. 

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