SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Operator, the leading conversational commerce company that makes shopping as easy as a text, today announced that it has closed $15 million in Series B financing to help fund its global expansion - starting with China. New investors include GGV Capital, which led the round, with participation from new investors Formation8, Morningside Ventures and Horizons Ventures, and existing Series A investors Greylock Partners and Expa. The company also announced that Hugo Barra, Vice President of Global Operations at Xiaomi, will join the Operator Board of Directors, and Hans Tung, Managing Partner, GGV Capital, will join as a Board Observer. The Board currently includes Operator CEO Robin Chan, Garrett Camp, founder of Uber and Expa, and Josh Elman of Greylock Partners.
The financing and Board additions will accelerate Operator’s plans to build a powerful global commerce network that enables consumers to easily discover and purchase products through mobile messaging. Operator also announced today that the company has recruited Yolanda Xue as CEO of Operator China to lead China operations from its new Shanghai office. Ms. Xue was most recently VP Merchandising at mobile shopping app Wish. She brings a wealth of e-commerce operations, acquisition, growth, and marketing expertise from leading Chinese companies to Operator.
“Operator’s founding team has built everyday products at Twitter, Facebook and Uber, and they know how to scale globally because it’s in their DNA,” said Hugo Barra, Vice President, International at Xiaomi. “I joined the Operator Board to support the team in mobile product strategy and global expansion into the emerging markets I know well.”
“We look to invest in astute startups like Operator that take the mass-market-first approach, and understand the value of creating a global company from the start,” said Hans Tung, Managing Partner, GGV Capital. “Founders like Robin who have a global vision to serve the world’s middle class have the opportunity to create the next generation of billion-dollar companies with lasting growth potential.”
According to a survey of online shoppers conducted by Tmall Global, Chinese shoppers are moving beyond their desire for designer labels. They are turning to Western brands for more common items, buying imported goods that aren’t available or are too costly to buy locally through international online shopping websites. This demand for foreign goods is becoming so common in China it even has a name: it’s called “hai tao”, or “ocean search.” Operator’s expansion into China will enable Chinese customers to buy authentic goods from Western merchants via messaging with the help of Chinese speaking human operators.
In 2015, the U.S. exported $161.6 billion in goods to China, making the country the third-largest importer of U.S. goods. According to a report from the Boston Consulting Group released in 2013, 61 percent of China’s consumers were willing to pay more for a product made in the United States.
“An important inspiration for Operator is our founding team’s expertise working in China,” said Robin Chan, CEO and Co-Founder of Operator. “Chinese consumers will accelerate our entire global platform. If you want to build a global company, you don’t think of China as an afterthought; you must start early.”
Operator makes shopping as easy as a text. By combining the best AI algorithms with Operator’s network of shopping experts, Operator is building a platform that helps people shop for exactly what they want at any time with a simple text. Operator has been named “Best New App” and “Editor’s Choice” in the Apple App Store, “Sexiest Product of the Year” by Product Hunt, “Startups to Watch” by VentureBeat and nominated for “Best New Startup” by TechCrunch. Operator is available on iOS, Android through Google Play Early Access, and Facebook Messenger.