This is the eleventh post in our series: Discover Korea’s Tech, where we talk to a mix of Korean startup entrepreneurs who stood their own ground with their technology in Korea’s economy notoriously dominated by gigantic companies. Stay tuned over the coming month as we talk to Korean entrepreneurs. You can follow our updates @technodechina for new stories in the series. 

Take out your phone and go to the apps you use most frequently. What would say is the one feature that can be found in all of them? No matter the use case, they probably have a chat or messaging function.

Prevalence of In-App Messenger 
Let’s take a look at some of the most predominant platforms in China. On Didi’s app, the biggest ride-hailing App in China, users exchange messages with their drivers. On Taobao’s app, the biggest C2C e-commerce platform, you can use Alibaba Trade Manager (阿里旺旺) where consumers can talk with sellers one-on-one to learn more about the product or even ensure the authenticity of the product and reliability of the seller.

This kind of in-app messenger helped lessen trust issues for ever-increasing decentralized C2C platforms where individuals exchange among themselves without the company in the middle.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel 
Although it is possible for all these service platforms to develop their own messaging function, why would you want to do recreate a service others have already perfected?

“Don’t reinvent the wheel,” says Mark Lee, Head of Growth at SendBird, a Silicon Valley-based startup that just graduated from Y Combinator’s 2016 batch last March.

Snapshot of SendBird integration (Image credit: SendBird)

The point is that services such as SendBird are there to help platforms establish in-app messaging in just minutes, the whole package from the front-end UI to the backend. This way, startups can focus more on the core business and reduce the cost of developing and maintaining the API. For instance, on an e-commerce platform, the company can fully concentrate on their commerce business, while SendBird implements the best chat API inside the platform to facilitate transactions.

“When Chinese platforms enter the global market, they would seek for the global service providers for their functions inside the platform,” Mark added.

Although in the domestic market, it is common to use Chinese service providers such as AliCloud whose servers are all in China. However, in global markets, partnering with global service providers who can handle the traffic from all over the world is absolutely crucial. This is what JoyCrafter, a Beijing-based gaming company thought when entering the global market. In publishing a game called ‘World Warfare’ worldwide, it partnered with SendBird to make sure users could seamlessly communicate with each other.

Mass Communication Embedded on Mobile and Web
In fact, in-app social functions are now more than mere one-on-one messaging but further advancing into an in-app community with open channels where thousands of users interact in interest based groups and live-events.

SendBird supports public chat room, grouping, and one-on-one messaging.  (Image credit: SendBird)

“The more fundamental motivation behind chatting inside the app is to create community and maximize engagement. And to do this, scalability has to be guaranteed,” said Mark. This means that platforms should be able to handle massive amount of users at the same time.

One representation of this is on the live-streaming apps that are equipped with interactive communication. This marks the fastest growth in 2016 with Facebook and Youtube introducing their own live streaming services and Twitch, the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers. In China, a lot of live-streaming mobile apps have also flourished.

Mass communication in live streaming app in China (Image credit: Sina)

SendBird Provides Scalability 
Think of the technological difference between one-to-one chat and several millions of people chatting simultaneously. The fundamental design of programming architecture is different between the two. SendBird’s strength lies in the fact that it can allow for scalability, hosting over 100,000 concurrent viewers per live video stream for maximum engagement.

Being able to maintain the reliability of the system with ever-growing traffic from all over the world purely depends on the level of technology this SDK is built on and the location of servers (Tokyo, Singapore, and Europe for SendBird).

Pikicast, the leading media contents curating platform in Korea, added massive chat function through SendBird. (Image Credit: SendBird)

“Actually, these massive communication means a lot of data, precious for the platform to better understand its users and at the same time, to facilitate the process,” says Mark. “So, SendBird provides the clients with administration toolkits which can be used to proactively monitor and moderate the chat rooms and allow for automatic filtering of profanity and prevent message flooding.”

SendBird is supported by K-ICT Born2Global Center, a major Korean government agency under the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP).

Image credit: SendBird

MJ explores the startup community across a variety of industries. MJ is particularly interested in O2O and Big Data. MJ is based in Shanghai.