How Hike, India's Fast Growing Mobile Messaging App, Is Banking On SMS & Local Diversity To Beat The Big Boys
It’s still practically a newborn but Indian mobile messaging app Hike is already channelling almost a billion messages a month between its five million registered users. Those numbers sound insignificant when you stack them up against the big beasts of the messaging space – WhatsApp claims 200 million+ monthly active users, and some 600 billion in and outbound messages – but Hike’s growth is impressive when you consider it’s only just over four months old. WhatsApp, of course, has been around for almost four years.
Mobile messaging is hot property right now, with tech giants like Facebook and most recently Google bent on owning the messaging space. The reason for all this interest in cross-platform chit-chat is that mobile messaging looks poised to steal social networking’s crown jewels: aka the cool factor, and thus the user engagement (Hike incorporates social status updates and emoji-based moods into its messaging app, to hang on the social chain). But the idea that there can be one ultimate mobile messaging winner — or one player as dominant as Facebook in the full-fat social networking space — seems unlikely. And that’s what Hike is banking on to disrupt WhatsApp and keep Facebook Messenger and its ilk from crashing its just-getting-started party.
There’s no doubt that local market realities intercede much more on mobile than on the traditional social networking playground of the desktop, especially in emerging markets where device, network and carrier variations influence how people communicate based on how they can afford to communicate. Those complexities provide an opportunity for local app makers to triumph over goliath outsiders if they build fixes for the local market, argues Hike.
“Given how competitive this market is we do feel that in about 3 or 5 years from now you will have somewhere between three to five players globally that own parts of the messaging space in the world. You’re already seeing it right now, you have Line in Japan, you have Kakao in Korea, you have WeChat in China, you have WhatsApp in South America and Europe, you have of course Facebook message or iMessage dominating in U.S. and WhatsApp growing there too. In India of course WhatsApp is the dominant player but we’ve come on to be a very strong number two in just four months,” says Hike creator Kavin Mittal.
“We can see that with communication if you solve local problems in the market there is room for a local player to win the market completely.”
Hike is one of the latest contenders to jump into the mobile messaging space, albeit with a few neat tricks up its sleeve that it’s confident will allow it to grab significant share in its chosen markets — namely India, and other similar emerging markets in place like Indonesia, the Middle East and Africa. Some 60% of Hike’s registered users are in India, 40% globally led by the Middle East and Germany (despite its emerging markets focus, Germany was actually the first market to spike an interest in Hike — which its creator puts down to it having 128bit encryption over Wi-Fi and Germans looking for a “much more secure solution to WhatsApp”).
On the neat tricks front, Hike has baked a patent-pending SMS conversion tool into its app to take advantage of fragmentation in the Indian market caused by low distribution of data-capable smartphones. So this is not just about incorporating SMS messages into a unified app — as Google plans to with its Hangouts app – but about making sure a data message can still reach someone who doesn’t have data, via the SMS channel.
Mittal explains that in India, even where people own smartphones they may not have data enabled, or may sporadically turn data off to save money. SMS is therefore still a key comms channel that needed to be brought into the loop. This fragmentation was the problem the app’s creators were setting out to solve with Hike. They have also done this in as low cost a way as possible by building a system that ensures it does not send cross-network SMSes (which incur a termination fee in India) but routes same network to same network.
“The idea behind Hike… is it works free globally. Hike is available on iPhone, Windows, Android S40, S60, very soon BlackBerry now as well. But in case you don’t have a phone than can install Hike, or let’s say you have a phone but you don’t have data, I can still message you from Hike for free. We convert the IP message into an SMS and it’s free for me as a Hike user, to which you can reply back to – and the reply comes back straight to my inbox making messaging very seamless. So I have one app for all my friends,” Mittal tells TechCrunch.
Another future trick — due to launch on June 10 — is something that will allow users who have turned off their data to still be notified that they have a message waiting for them, presumably so they know to turn data back on. “At this point in the market there’s no way to notify you when you have a message waiting on one of these applications. So we’re launching something on June 10th that’s going to solve this problem, so no matter where you are – no matter if you’re online or offline – you’ll be able to communicate via Hike with your friend all the time,” he adds.
Hike is funding the conversion cost of sending the SMSes itself — in the Indian market, with a view to extending it to other emerging markets with similar dynamics — so that is one of its largest sunk costs at the moment, according to Mittal. But its monetisation strategy is based on building off that base in another way. The shift Hike’s creators are ultimately calculating on is the movement of consumer spending in its target emerging markets away from carrier ‘value add services’ — paid for infotainment SMSes and so on — to data-based content and entertainment.
That’s where Hike sees its future profits, by fleshing out its messaging offering to supplement the bread and butter of social comms with “content that’s very relevant to the local market” – much as the Line messaging app is already doing with entertainment content such as stickers and games.
“India is a country of 20 countries. There’s so much diversity, cultural differences, dialects, languages that one has to cater to and given that this is a big entertainment market there is no doubt we’re going to go down the route of enriching messaging around content,” he says. “If you look at why you message it’s around a piece of content, topic, video, something new you’ve found, something funny. And India it’s much more prevalent than other markets so we’re definitely going down that route, there’s no doubt about it.”
Hike is also looking to work with carriers to share some of the SMS conversion cost, with the benefit for carriers being that Hike is acting as an IP pusher, turning mobile owners into data drivers — and data is ultimately where carriers in these emerging will be making their future revenues from too.
“Given the traction we’ve had in the Indian market we’ve seen a lot of interest from the operators who want to work closely with Hike and figure out how to expand and grow the traction with Hike because what we’re doing for the operators is we’re introducing a lot of people to data,” says Mittal. “What one can also do over SMS is send photos, videos and so forth, so if I’m on Hike and do SMS I can send you a picture and you get a link on SMS so you can open it on a browser, so we’re striking deals in the Indian market and the emerging markets like Middle East and Africa where the cost is not only bourn by us but by the operator too.”
Hike is starting out with more resources than most startups, being created by BSB, a 50:50 Bharti Softbank joint venture, that acts as a “quasi-strategic incubator”, as Mittal puts it. Bharti Softbank invested $7 million into Hike about a month ago — a measure of how much traction the app had managed to achieve in a few short months. BSB projects get their first round funded by the parent companies if they achieve enough traction.
Going forward, Hike will likely look outside for funding, says Mittal — assuming it can keep on growing, and reach its goal of at least 10 million registered users (“our internal critical number”), which it views as the baseline required before starting to think seriously about monetisation.
“By the end of the year we’ll be in a positon to raise money from the external market. The reason we’re doing that is the VC market in India has less of an appetite for taking massive risk. Because one of the first questions to ask is ‘hey guys why are you building another messaging app?’ And we were pretty certain that if we did what we did we’d get the traction and so far we’ve proved it,” says Mittal. “We’re in a point where we have the $7 million but we will look outside, even possibly the West Coast for funding.”
Mittal won’t put a figure on Hike’s active user base but says it’s “amongst the highest we’ve seen in the industry and definitely way above 50%”. ”We feel there is a room for a local player to dominate markets like India, Africa and China and so forth, and take care of the local needs, and that is something we’re working on. That’s the big philosophy we have at BSB,” he adds.
India’s technology-adoption stratification poses a huge challenge when you’re trying to build an app that lets people talk to whoever they want. A challenge that, ultimately, gives the local kid a toehold over global mobile messaging players, argues Hike.
“The market kind of splits India into three sort of broad demographics, the top part really mimics the U.S. population — 30, 40 million people – they’re really switched on, they know about the Internet, they have smartphones and so on and so forth; there are about 150 million people that are experimenting with the Internet, but they have a lot of churn there because the Internet is still not a utility for these guys; and then you have a billion people at the bottom of the pyramid that have no clue whatsoever the Internet even is,” says Mittal.
“As you go further down in India, how do you tackle the one billion people? No one knows but we’re in India here, so we’re the guys to figure it out.”
This Gillmor Gang was recorded live at betaday, the betaworks annual gathering in New York. The Gillmor Gang included John Borthwick, Robert Scoble, Douglas Rushkoff, Paul Davison, and Steve Gillmor. Enjoy.
@stevegillmor, @Borthwick, @scobleizer, @rushkoff, @pdavison
The Gillmor Gang is produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
Google is prepping… something. An announced Google media streamer was recently found in the FCC’s testing database. Details are nearly nonexistent as most are held under a confidentiality agreement for the next 45 days. However, the documents released to the public call the device several times a “media player” and that it features WiFi connectivity.
The H840, with a model number of H2G2-42 (a clever nod to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), could be a Nexus Q replacement. After all, Google’s new music streaming service does not work with the ill-fated Nexus Q, nor does Google have a mass-market way to get it into living rooms. Google essentially needs its own Apple TV device.
Mass consumption is the only way Google Play Music All Access is going to be successful. Google needs to follow Pandora’s lead and get its service onto as many platforms and screens as possible. A native Google TV app will likely debut shortly. But Google TV is far from successful enough to do this job alone.
It’s rather strange Google didn’t announce this device at I/O last week. This device will launch within the coming weeks. The FCC will release the rest of the details including the device’s user manual in 45 days, giving Google a rather small launch window.
A $99-ish Roku/Apple TV clone is a no-brainer for Google. Call it a Nexus streamer. It would be a media consumption device, able to serve up Google Play and likely several staple streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu. Use an Android device for the remote. Profit.
Editor’s note: Tolga Ozuygur is the co-founder of Overdose Caffeine, an indie game-development company from Turkey that develops cross-platform, real-time multiplayer games. Follow him on Twitter @tolgaozuygur.
We at Overdose Caffeine had previously announced that Pocket Fleet, a real-time multiplayer space dogfight game developed for mobile devices, would be available soon on OUYA. Our players were looking forward to it. Even we were excited about the prospect of bringing the game to the platform, as we loved the device and thought TV was a great medium for fast-paced multiplayer gaming.
However, we have decided to end development for it and switch to GamePop. I know many people were looking forward to playing the game on OUYA, so I thought I’d explain why we made this decision.
Pocket Fleet Is A Cross-Platform Game
Pocket Fleet works on Android, iOS and any computer with a browser. We are also about to release the game on Samsung with the 100 percent revenue share indie deal we struck with them. Gamers can also play the game on their PCs and keep playing on their mobile devices, battling players from any other platform. The game runs the same way on every platform, which is why we wanted to add support for a TV console to expand our PC-Mobile combo, and were going to do it with OUYA.
But We Are a Small Indie Development Team With Limited Bandwidth
We don’t have a separate “design group” to rework menus. We focus all of our energy on building the best possible game mechanics and providing new fancy features to our fans. This has paid off so far, as Pocket Fleet has exceeded our wildest expectations, having reached downloads in the seven figures in just a few months and a feature in Google Play. We don’t have time to mess around. If we had a larger team, things might have been different.
Developing For OUYA Became A Lot More Work
While it might seem we would only need to map the controls in Pocket Fleet to the OUYA controller (a job of only a few days), it turned out to be much more than that. The biggest surprise was what they required in terms of new menu design. We assumed the user could move a cursor around to select things on our main menu, but this was not the case. The company required that we redesign the main screen so that people could move around it by highlighting different buttons. This may sound simple but certain circumstances meant that it was anything but. Their ODK was also pretty shoddily thrown together and updates didn’t note what had changed. It began to get very onerous very fast.
GamePop Had a Much Simpler Proposition
We still loved the idea of bringing Pocket Fleet to TV. Recently, we were contacted by someone from BlueStack, which was about to launch their GamePop subscription service and console. They asked for no menu changes or controller mappings, there’s no SDK, no nothing. Seriously, it was about the easiest onboarding we’ve ever had to a platform, since they basically use our stock APK.
We Wish It Weren’t This Way
We were (and still are) fans of Ouya and have been rooting for them since the start. We wish them the best. For independent developers however, we just can’t do so much work for such an uncertain benefit. We’re taking the Occam’s Razor approach and going with GamePop for now. Pocket Fleet looks awesome on its prototype and we can’t wait to release the finished product.
I’ve spent the last two weeks wandering around London, Paris, and Istanbul (not Constantinople.) As an experiment, I left my trusty MacBook Pro behind and brought only the $199 Chromebook on which I type this. And to my considerable surprise it has served admirably. So admirably, in fact, that I believe ChromeOS is only one or two iterations away from being the right choice for many-if not most–homes.
I was skeptical to begin with: after all, I thought, Chrome is acceptable when you’re online, but I’ll be spending much of my travel time offline, which probably makes it a non-starter, right? — So I devoted most of my Chromebook’s (bizarrely spacious) 320GB hard drive to an install of Ubuntu. Which I then never used even once.
I suppose I would have if some kind of critical work emergency had come up: after all, I’m (mostly) a software developer by trade, and ChromeOS isn’t much of a developer platform. But that didn’t happen. Good thing, too, because Linux-on-the-desktop seems as ugly and frustrating as ever for someone, even a deeply techie someone, who just wants to get things done.
ChromeOS, though, is both very pretty and almost painless. Its biggest problem is that out of the box it naively insists that you’ll be online all the time–even though it can be perfectly serviceable while disconnected. You may not have known that nowadays both GMail and (most) Google Docs can work just fine offlne.
And if you didn’t, well, Google sure isn’t about to proactively tell you. You actually have to make a point of seeking out, installing, and then activating Offline Gmail and Offline Google Docs from the Chrome Web Store. Why ChromeOS doesn’t prompt you with this option as part of the onboarding process is truly beyond me. Similarly, why on Earth are “Gmail’ and “Offline Gmail” two separate apps? Google may be full of incredibly smart people, but they can also be insanely myopic when it comes to end users.
Once those were up and running, though, my Chromebook was a charm to use under almost all circumstances. Offline, I could write documents, check old email, and even play a few free games from the Chrome Web Store, although most Chrome games still seem to require an initial server connection to start up. And online, of course, the world was my oyster.
Did I have access to all the features of, say, Word or Excel? Hell, no. (You still can’t create a Google Docs spreadsheet when offline, either.) Was it an all-guns-blazing gaming experience? Again, no, although Chrome’s rapidly evolving Native Client ought to keep matters improving here. What I could do, though, was email, play a few games, surf the Net, communicate (via GChat or Google Hangouts, which worked excellently), and write documents — which unless I’m much mistaken is pretty much everything that most people use their computers for at home.
ChromeOS still needs better, and simpler, offline support; and I’d like to see more diversity of available hardware; but once those two things are addressed, which shouldn’t take long, I would happily recommend a Chromebook to my parents the next time they upgrade. In fact I’d happily recommend one to anyone who wants a small second laptop for travel, or who doesn’t need to do serious work on their home computer.
Long ago Neal Stephenson, when comparing operating systems to vehicles, described MacOS as a hermetically sealed day-glo VW Beetle; MS Windows as a clunky two-tone station wagon; and Linux as the product of a horde of dreadlocked hippies who spent their time building M1 battle tanks and giving them away for free. Which sounds great at first, but who actually wants to drive a tank?
Well, if I may extend that a little, ChromeOS is like a sleek, shiny Airstream trailer built around that same M1 engine. There are many things it can’t do, and a bunch more at which it’s very clumsy, but within its bailiwick, casual exploring, it’s both very attractive and awfully comfortable.
I don’t think Stephenson’s original analogies quite hold any more, though. Nowadays OS X is more like a Porsche…and Windows is a gas-guzzling pickup truck, or a cube van that makes disturbing noises whenever it corners. Still suitable for work, but not particularly great for either road trips or sub/urban living — and nowadays looking nervously over its metaphorical shoulder at the flotilla of drones and self-driving cars on the horizon.
Image credit: Dan McCullough, Flickr.
Google is facing another competition investigation, according to the Financial Post. The Canadian Competition Bureau has informed Mountain View of its plans to launch a formal investigation of its Canadian operations. It has not yet requested any information or documents from Google but has informed the search giant of its intention to launch a probe.
The Bureau declined to comment on the scope of the investigation, noting that it is obliged by law to conduct investigations confidentially. Asked for comment on the probe, Leslie Church, Google Canada’s head of communications and public affairs, told the Post: “We will work co-operatively with the Competition Bureau to answer any questions they may have.”
The Canadian Competition Bureau administers and enforces Canada’s Competition Act, among other laws. Among the types of behaviour it investigates are abuse of a dominant position involving anti-competitive practices that “substantially lessen competition in the market, or are likely to do so”.
Google’s search engine is by far and away the dominant player in Canada. According to StatCounter data for April 2012 to 2013 Google’s share has declined over the past year but only very marginally, from more than 90% last year to just under 90% in April this year. The second largest search engine, Microsoft’s Bing, took less than 7% of the market in April 2013.
Competition investigation is well-trodden ground for Google. Mountain View has been the subject of a string of investigations for a range of business practices, including a 20-month FTC antitrust probe in the U.S. and a two-year+ European Union antitrust probe into its search and advertising operations that’s still ongoing, pushing into its third year.
The FTC probe ended with Google agreeing to make some voluntary tweaks to its search and ad business and without any fine being levied. In the European antitrust case, Google submitted proposals for changes to its practices back in April. Yesterday Reuters reported that EU antitrust regulators had extended the review period for Google’s rivals to study its proposals after complaints that competitors were not being given as much time to formulate their responses.
If Google is found to have breached EU competition rules it could face a fine of up to 10% of its global revenue.
Tumblr employees feel that Yahoo’s $1.1 billion offer is “too low” and view it as “only a first offer,” according to sources close to acquisition talks. Yahoo may have to increase the offer to close the deal. An acquisition by some tech giant is likely in the cards for Tumblr, though, as sources say the company only has a few months of cash runway left.
The news comes after AllThingsD reported Yahoo was in advanced talks to buy Tumblr for $1.1 billion cash, and the portal’s board of directors are set to meet on Sunday night to discuss the potential deal. Forbes reports that Facebook and Microsoft have also expressed interest in acquiring Tumblr. However, Forbes says that Yahoo has lock-up agreement arranged with Tumblr that prevents the blogging platform from holding a “bake-off” or bidding war for the right to buy it.
If Yahoo comes to the table with an insufficient offer, which our sources say $1.1 billion may qualify as, Tumblr could reject it and shop itself around some more. A frothy M&A market could give it plenty of options. Others might not offer as much as Yahoo, but could offer a more appealing working environment. Take a chance turning Yahoo around? Or go somewhere more stable and relevant?
A few months ago Tumblr let several companies know it was interested in possibly being acquired. Yahoo was the first to come to the table with a firm number, says one of our sources. They say Tumblr is apprehensive about accepting the $1.1 billion cash offer, though. Considering the much smaller, younger Instagram’s acquisition price was supposed to be $1 billion (in cash and stock, though, which would eventually make it worth less), it seems reasonable that Tumblr would view $1.1 billion cash as a lowball.
Tumblr employees have been told that the company only has enough funds to operate for a few more months, as its costs far exceed the limited revenue it earns. Tumblr pulled in $13 million in 2012, but has accelerated its advertising offering in hopes of hitting $100 million in revenue this year. The money’s not coming in fast enough to support its expenses though. Employees were recently told not to be concerned, though, because the company is expecting to be bought.
Of course, Yahoo might be able to push the deal through for $1.1 billion or just a little more depending on how the acquisition is structured. If it promises Tumblr’s CEO David Karp he can retain control of the company, provides the right retention bonuses, or won’t force Tumblr to shoehorn in integrations with Yahoo’s other properties, Tumblr may be more receptive.
In the end it will be Tumblr’a execs and board who make the decision who to sell to and for how much. They could certainly ignore grumbling from employees.
If the deal goes through, it might not be so popular with Tumblr’s users, who range from young hipsters to diehard Internet aficionados. Many thought Instagram’s user base would balk at its acquisition by Facebook, but the photo sharing service has continued to grow, offering some hope to Yahoo and Tumblr if their deal closes.
If Yahoo successfully buys the startup, it could inject some much-needed “cool,” youthful energy, and design sense into the aging tech giant. That’s why Tumblr may not necessarily be worth more than $1.1 billion, but it’s worth more than that to Yahoo. The giant desperately needs to bring in as much talent as possible to replace or at least reinvigorate the ranks of uninspired employees. But if Yahoo pays more and Tumblr doesn’t help turn things around, it could be disastrous. Unfortunately, dialysis doesn’t come cheap.
Today, thanks to the maturation of the web, digital tech, and smartphones now in seemingly every pocket, startups are finding it easier than ever before to build scalable solutions to finally address the many inefficiencies in our food manufacturing, production and distribution systems.
As interest in food tech balloons, one area in particular appears to already be at the tipping point: Online and mobile food delivery. Over the last few days, we’ve hearing about a merger between two of the largest companies in the space. Rumor has it that “arch rivals” GrubHub and Seamless are in talks which could see them join forces as part of a merger. While our sources tell us that the talks are serious, the terms of the merger are not yet clear and, of course, any potential deal could fall through.
Furthermore, it’s not yet clear what kind of synergies would take place, how management of the new entity would be structured or even what the new business will be called. The two companies would not confirm on the record on any of the above. But as far as the name goes, we’re hoping for Grubless. Or Hubless GrubSeam. But they have a nice ring to them, don’t they?
If these rumors are true, the merger comes at a good time for the arch rivals, who have been seeing mounting competition of late from a laundry list of new startups entering the space, including increasingly popular alternatives like Delivery.com, ChowNow, Munchery (meals from local chefs), Campus Special, eat24 or the bigs of Europe, like Food Hero and Just-Eat.
If the online food-ordering and delivery market is roughly where daily deals were three-plus years ago, then the deal essentially creates the Groupon of food delivery. Like the daily deals market, food ordering has traditionally had a fairly low barrier to entry, which helps explain why we seem to see a new startup pop up every week.
Plus, the business model isn’t particularly complicated, making it replicable. That being said, innovation and tech adoption have been slow to come to the food industry, and, at scale, this model (taking a slice of transactions) has the potential to be able to generate a lot of cash.
This is just one part of why the “food tech” business has been so hot lately. Just ask venture capitalists who collectively poured $350 million into food startups over the last year. (Compare that to 2008, when it was less than $50 million.) Plus, when you get right down to it: People need to eat. And, as it turns out, people are pretty busy. Uh, and lazy.
Of course, for those who remember the spectacular failure of online food companies like Webvan, Kozmo and HomeRuns, this whole “tech in your kitchen” and online ordering jibber-jabber probably sounds familiar — and not in a good way. But this time it’s different. Research from Cornell University recently found, for example, that over 40 percent of adults in the U.S. have ordered food online, and 10 percent of restaurant orders now originate online — and these numbers continue to head north. GrubHub and Seamless have built successful businesses on this very idea.
Both GrubHub and Seamless have been around for some time: The New York City-based Seamless was founded in 1999, while the Chicago-based GrubHub got its start in 2004. And for the most part, the two companies have catered to two different markets geographically. While both now have fairly expansive coverage, GrubHub has naturally developed a firm foothold in the Midwest, while Seamless focused its early attention on NYC, before moving into cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. From that perspective, a merger would make sense, allowing the new, consolidated entity to gain penetration into markets where they lacked a major presence.
Writ large, the companies, while having some fundamental differences, do seem to have a lot of synergies on paper — at least “nominally,” depending on who you ask — likely why they’ve increasingly become rivals over the years. Both are of fairly comparable size, as GrubHub has more than 18,000 restaurant partners across more than 500 cities, while Seamless has over 12,000 restaurants and serves nearly 5,000 businesses and more than 2 million users. As of February, Reuters reported that Seamless was on track to generate more than $100 million in revenue this year as it expands into new cities and focuses more aggressively on mobile.
The company reportedly generated $85 million in revenue last year, growing its consumer business by 60 percent year-over-year and “will soon be processing $1 billion worth of food orders a year,” Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky told Reuters at the time. For the majority of its history, the company focused primarily on New York, but launched a major expansion effort last year, bringing its service to 10 new cities. According to the report, Seamless saw its transaction volume quadruple in Los Angeles during 2012, with transactions tripling in San Francisco.
Another interesting point to note: GrubHub was reported to be considering an IPO last fall. The company denied the rumors at the time, and if this merger is true, then they’ve been given the proper perspective. Certainly, it would seem that this wouldn’t take a potential IPO off the table, instead, likely making an opening price that much higher.
The IPO rumors for GrubHub came at a time when the company was reportedly doing about $60 million in revenue (this was in 2012) — a little less than half that of Seamless. Furthermore, Crain’s reported in December that GrubHub’s revenue has been doubling every year and, as the company reported $30 million in revenue in 2011, that revenue estimate would make sense and put the company on the path to crossing $100 million well before the end of this year.
That is all to say that, although the terms of the potential deal are unclear, these are two sizable businesses that are growing relatively fast, so any potential valuation has got to be fairly high. After all: The two companies were fairly comparably capitalized and staffed, with GrubHub growing to over 250 employees and Seamless over 300, while GrubHub raised about $84 million from a mix of venture and growth equity firms (including Benchmark) and Seamless raised $51 million, $50 million of which came from private equity firm Spectrum Equity.
While both companies have made a couple of acquisitions, this would be the second big M&A deal for Seamless, as the company was acquired by food services giant, ARAMARK, in 2006. Five years later, Spectrum bought a minority stake in Seamless from ARAMARK, and about a year later, the food services company spun-off its remaining interest in Seamless to its shareholders. Free from its corporate ownership, Seamless proceeded to go out and buy MenuPages for $15 million, showing up GrubHub, which MenuPages had initially targeted as its acquirer. When GrubHub and MenuPages couldn’t agree to a deal, and it seems that GrubHub was instead in the process of buying Dotmenu/Allmenus, Seamless swooped in — according to BetaBeat.
So, as you can see, the companies have a long history of jostling. While GrubHub had been out acquiring restaurant partners fast and furiously, Seamless stagnated a bit under ARAMARK, but since becoming an independent company (again) and with a new board/investors, the company seems to have been compounding its growth. Together, that growth could be exponentially higher.
Finally, if this deal is in fact a go, it’s worth looking at this quote from GrubHub co-founder and CEO Matt Maloney from back in 2011. In it, he shares his opinion on GrubHub’s top competitor, a little company called Seamless. He told BetaBeat:
I typically don’t talk this much about Seamless because we don’t view them as incredibly strong competition for what we’re doing … Seamless fundamentally is a corporate catering business. They were founded years and years and years ago to do just that. And they’re still best in the business for corporate. They recently got into the consumer and residential pick-up and delivery. And they do it well in New York, but they really have zero business anywhere else. We don’t even consider them competition anywhere other than Manhattan specifically.
So, there you go. A match potentially made in heaven, and one that’s sure to shake up online and mobile food ordering if it happens.
Oh HTC. You’ve produced one of the finest Android smartphones ever (seriously, just look at all these reviews), but you’ve faced more than your share of challenges when it came to actually pumping your top-tier One smartphone. As it happens, that may all soon change.
FocusTaiwan reported earlier today that HTC is preparing to pump out more of its wonderful Ones in short order — Jack Tong, the company’s North Asia president, noted that this month’s production capacity for the flagship device is twice that of April, and that surge will only continue into June.
Sounds pretty yawn-worthy, right? Normally I would spend too much time dwelling on the finer points of production capacity, but here’s a device that was launched to widespread praise by an underdog smartphone company some people have written off, and HTC has basically been getting screwed thanks to part shortages for the One’s Ultrapixel camera and a brief injunction due to the HDR microphone it uses. It’s like a perfect storm of headaches for a company that really, really doesn’t need it — one look at its Q1 financials and it’s clear that HTC needed this launch to go as smoothly as possible. It didn’t.
For what it’s worth, HTC hasn’t disclosed how many Ones it’s shipped since it launched earlier this year. Meanwhile, rival Samsung’s Galaxy S4 has become the Korean electronics giant’s fastest moving smartphone — Samsung shipped 6 million units in just over two weeks, and it hopes to cross the 10 million unit threshold by the end of this month. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that Google’s Hugo Barra showed off a version of the S4 at the company’s I/O developer conference that runs a version of Android that’s unfettered by the software bloat that many a reviewer took umbrage at. Company representatives were careful not to call it a Nexus — even though it seems to harbor many of the advantages inherent to the Nexus line like a clean Android build and access to frequent software updates.
As I noted towards the end of my HTC One review, the wireless industry isn’t a meritocracy — the well-executed device doesn’t always wind up saving the day. Hopefully now that some of these production woes have been ironed out we’ll see HTC live to fight another day, but that’s still far from a given.
Google Now Introduces Mark Up Tools For Select Partners To Flag Flights, Hotel Stays And Reservations In Emails
Google made a relatively quiet announcement today regarding how it’s pushing the developer ecosystem forward around Google Now, its intelligent personal assistant for Android devices. The company has begun extending mark up tools for emails from select partners, which help highlight flight schedules, hotel bookings and various types of reservations, to make sure that Gmail can spot that information and use it to auto-generate helpful reminders in Google Now.
The extension of the platform tools available to Now partners was announced by Google’s Baris Gultekin, who was one of the creators of Google Now, which sprung out of a project he came up with in his so-called “20 percent time.” He spoke with Google’s Louis Gray on the Developer Live video stream which ran throughout the I/O conference this year.
Gultekin was talking about ways in which Google is working to improve the quality and relevancy of the recommendations and data it surfaces. The project sounds like it’s fairly limited for now, but asking for help from the input sources of data seems like a smart way to supplement Google’s own data detection algorithms that are working to flag interesting data for Now’s use on their own data center side. Doing all the heavy lifting themselves might be more impressive, but if reaching out to partners can help improve user experience, then there’s no reason not to extend that hand.
No word yet on whether Google will eventually make those mark up tools available for different types of data or open them up for public use, but it’s easy to imagine a scenario where that happens, allowing developers and startups to provide the option of delivering all kinds of relevant information to users from their apps and services on Android. Then again, that has the potential to become overwhelming for users, so we might see a more metered, gradual approach.
Just about six months ago, Uber won a big battle with D.C. regulators to have its on-demand car service approved for operation within the nation’s capital. But new regulations from the D.C. Taxi Commission could severely hamper the company’s ability to offer low-cost services in the district.
Last December, the D.C. City Council voted to approve a legal framework that legitimized mobile e-hail applications there, as long as those applications followed certain rules. It defined a new class of for-hire vehicles (taxis and sedans) that could use mobile apps as a way to connect drivers and passengers.
The unanimous City Council vote followed a year of negotiations with local regulators to get its services approved for usage within the district. (The very public fight even included a sting operation by D.C. Taxi Commissioner Ron Linton in which he took an Uber and then handed over a variety of fines to the driver.) Still, after a whole lot of back-and-forth, it seemed like Uber was finally in the clear.
New regulations approved by the D.C. Taxi Commission last week could be a setback in the progress that Uber has made there, however. Among other things, those regulations would require mobile e-hail applications to integrate with the payment processor that is used within local taxicabs. That’s a non-starter for Uber, which currently has its own payment processor for in-app payments, and it could mean the end of UberTAXI in the city.
Another set of rules, which is being considered now, would ban cars that weighed less than 3,200 pounds. That would keep Uber from offering fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, which would affect its ability to offer its lower-cost UberX service there. With the possibility of UberTAXI and UberX being shut down, the company would only have its legacy black car and SUV businesses in the city.
Other regulations that Uber disagrees with would require Uber and other e-hail providers to hand over data related to rides that were booked using mobile applications. According to Uber, another rule could give the Taxi Commission the ability to choose whether or not apps are approved for usage in the city, and unilaterally keep Uber and other services from operating there.
For its part, Uber has tried to once again mobilize its users to reach out to D.C. officials and petition the local government. It’s asked users to email and tweet at Mayor Vincent C. Gray, and has put up a petition on Change.org. That petition has already received more than 2,500 signatures, with 5,000 needed.
Zynga has apparently told the makers of the dating website CupidWithFriends that they need to change the site’s name, because it allegedly infringes on Zynga’s trademarks.
CupidWithFriends was built by the startup Apartment 7 (which also released the dating apps Flock and Wednesday Night). The site launched a couple of months ago, allowing users to build and edit dating profiles for their friends.
Apartment 7 co-founder Jared Tame just forwarded me a copy of the letter from Zynga’s lawyers. I’ve pasted the full letter at the end of this post, but the gist is that users are likely to think that CupidWithFriends is associated in some way with Zynga (which acquired the developer of the With Friends mobile gaming franchise, a franchise that recently expanded with the launch of Running With Friends). So the social gaming company is demanding that CupidWithFriends change its name by May 24.
Tame said he has “no plans to change the name of the product,” adding,”At the end of the day, we’re busy trying to innovate in the dating space and dealing with Zynga would be a major distraction to us. I think they should be more focused on innovating rather than targeting month-old startups like us.”
I emailed Zynga for confirmation and details, but a spokesperson declined to comment. When I ran a search on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s website (direct links to specific filings don’t seem to be working for me), I did find a trademark filing for “With Friends” in relation to computer game software and entertainment services.
Tame isn’t the only one building an app named using a “with friends” name. There’s also Bang With Friends (which has other problems, as it was recently booted from the Apple App Store) — I asked the company whether it has received a similar letter from Zynga, but it declined to comment.
Here’s the full letter to CupidWithFriends:
Dear Sir or Madam:
We serve as intellectual property counsel to Zynga Inc. (“Zynga”). Among other things, Zynga publishes and owns intellectual property rights in the ‘WITH FRIENDS™ family of social games, which includes Words With Friends®, Chess With Friends®, Scramble With Friends®, Hanging With Friends™, Matching With Friends™, Gems With Friends™ and Games With Friends®, as well as other ‘WITH FRIENDS games in various stages of development (collectively the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks). Each of Zynga’s games using the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks is published and played by millions of users on various social networking portals, including Facebook, Android and iPhone.
Zynga has consistently used and promoted the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks together as a family and, as a result of Zynga’s extensive marketing efforts and commercial success, the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks is strongly identified by consumers with Zynga’s reputation for quality.
It has come to our attention that CupidWithFriends has developed and launched an application called “Cupid With Friends”. CupidWithFriends’ use of the name “Cupid With Friends” for an online application is confusingly similar to the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks owned by Zynga, and users are likely to believe, erroneously, that CupidWithFriends’ application is published, sponsored, endorsed by or associated with Zynga. CupidWithFriends’ use of “Cupid With Friends” also dilutes the distinctiveness of Zynga’s famous ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks.
Zynga has invested substantial time and resources in developing and promoting the ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks, and it vigorously protects its rights in its marks, both collectively and individually. Zynga hereby demands that CupidWithFriends immediately cease use of the name “Cupid With Friends” in connection with its online application, and refrain from further exploitation of the goodwill that Zynga has developed in its ‘WITH FRIENDS Family of Trademarks.
We anticipate that you will accede to this demand, and ask that CupidWithFriends confirm by Friday, May 24, 2013 that it has ceased use of the name “Cupid With Friends” in connection with its online application. Nothing contained in this letter constitutes an express or implied waiver of any rights, remedies, or defenses of Zynga, all of which are expressly reserved.
Very truly yours,
Dennis L. Wilson
Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
Mozilla today bumped up Firefox Aurora, the pre-beta release channel of the popular browser, to version 23. With this, it is introducing a number of new tools for developers that will now slowly make their way into the stable release channel over the next few months. Sadly (or maybe not), this is also the first version of Firefox that does away with the good old <blink> element, a former staple of the horrid GeoCities websites of the 90s.
On the user-facing side of things, this Aurora release also includes support for Firefox’s Mixed Content Blocker, which should keep users a bit safer when sites contain both HTTP and HTTPs resources. For Mac users, it includes new animations for swipe navigations and — finally — support for OSX 10.7′s new scrollbar style.
The focus of this release is clearly on developers, though. Firefox Aurora now features a new network monitor that provides a standard waterfall timeline view of network activity on any given page. This data has always been available, but only through the Web Console, which wasn’t very easy to interpret.
Also new in this version is a Remote Style Editor, which allows developers to test their web apps over a remote protocol in real time. Mozilla says the Editor should be compatible with Firefox for Android 23, which is also coming to the Aurora channel soon, and the team is working on incorporating some aspects of this technology into the Firefox OS simulator.
Other new tools include a new preference menu dedicated to the developer tools, as well as a first implementation of SourceMap Support and changes to the Object Inspector.
You can find a full list of changes here.
Google’s Vikram Aggarwal, a software engineer working on the Android platform, revealed today that Gmail and Email, the native Android client that still ships on Android devices as well, now has a combined user base of more than 100 million across the Android install base. It’s an interesting stat, because although Gmail and Email only represent two of a multitude of email clients available on Android, it’s likely that those two represent the email clients of choice for a wide swath of Android users.
This means that a 100-million-strong active user base for those two combined is probably a pretty good reflection of the total active user base of Android itself, give or take a few million users. That’s a good figure to get, since we usually see more about total activations, which is a far less accurate measure of how many people are currently using devices. Activations occur whenever there is a full device reset, for instance, and people often upgrade to new phones, meaning their previous activation is no longer an active one.
Google has passed 900 million Android activations, the company revealed at the I/O keynote earlier this week. Put in context of a 100-million-strong active user base for the core email apps operating on the platform, however, we get a picture of Android users which is much more down to earth. Estimates of active Apple devices have to take into account the 500 million sold to date, with over 300 million now on iOS 6. Updated to that version or being sold with it installed indicates there’s a good chance a lot of those are still in active use.
Divining the total number of active users on either platform is one part magic and one part science, and the 100 million is likely shy of the actual total of active Android devices out there, but it’s still another piece of the puzzle.
Less than ten days after Bang With Friends made its mobile debut on the iOS App Store, Apple has seemingly changed its mind and given it the boot.
As I noted in the post at the time, I was actually a bit surprised to see Apple green light this one to begin with. The guys behind the app tried to chaste things up a bit for Apple, changing the name for the iOS version of their app to the slightly more inconspicuous “BWF” (The Android app, meanwhile, is still just “Bang With Friends”. Google don’t give no damns.)
Alas, it seems that wasn’t enough for an extended stay. Apple has reportedly pulled the app without notice or explanation, with requests for the app in iTunes being met with the error below:
So what happened here? Did someone higher up at Apple get word of the app and decide to drop the ban hammer? Or could it be… something else? Note, for example, that Zynga just went after dating site CupidWithFriends for using their “With Friends” trademark, requesting that the name be changed. We’re looking into what happened.
So is the Bang With Friends team, it would seem; a page put up by the team says they’re “working with Apple to get BWF back in the App Store shortly”.
Ask A VC: Accel Partners' Rich Wong On Whether You Can Build A Great Tech Company Outside Silicon Valley
This week, we hosted Accel Partners’ Rich Wong in the studio for our Ask A VC show.
Wong, who has invested in Angry Birds (Rovio), Dealer.com, Mobilespaces, Atlassian, MoPub, talked about where he sees the next wave of disruption in mobile technologies. He believes mobile security is a huge opportunity mobile, especially at the enterprise level.
We also chatted about whether entrepreneurs can build a great tech company outside of Silicon Valley. Wong has some interesting perspective on this considering that Atlassian’s headquarters are in Sydney, Australia and Rovio is based in Finland.
Tune in above to hear what Wong’s favorite Rovio game is and more.
$FB is still stuck at $26.25, way down from its $38 IPO price, but it’s made important progress since going public a year ago. Daily users up 26%, mobile monthly users up 56%, and revenue up 38% are some highlights. It’s running out of people to sign up in the developed world, but with this growth and no serious competitor in sight, it’s survived its hardest year yet.
- Likes – 4.5 Billion – Up 67% – Average number of likes generated as of May 2013, up from 2.7 billion likes generated daily in August 2012
- Content Items Shared – 4.75 Billion – Up 94% – Average number of content items shared daily as of May 2013, up from 2.45 content items shared daily in August 2012
[Stats and images provided by Facebook]
Likes and sharing are growing faster than Facebook’s user count, indicating strong engagement. This contradicts rumors that people are tuning out of Facebook. Zuckerberg’s Law, the CEO’s Moore’s Law-style theory, states that people will share twice as much every year. Facebook almost made good on Mark’s claim. It’s important that Facebook keeps that number growing as it’s shared content that keeps people visiting Facebook and seeing its ads.
To do that, Facebook is working on the more immersive mobile experience Home which has increased time spent on Facebook by 25% for its small number of active users. More time spent could lead to more sharing. This year it doubled the speed of its massively popular iOS and Android by switching them from HTML5 to native architecture, which lead to longer session times. It added content-specific news feed to boost browsing, and launched Graph Search to pull additional value out its data and get people to contribute more.
It’s also been beefing up its mobile SDKs for iOS and Android to make it easier for apps to share content to Facebook. That’s a big reason Facebook cares about helping its developers grow — they’re scratching each other’s backs.
- Monthly Active Users – 1.11 Billion – up 23% – As of March 2013, up from 901 million MAUs in March 2012
- Daily Active Users – 665 Million – up 26% – On average as of March 2013, up from 526 million DAUs on average in March 2012
- Mobile Monthly Active Users – 751 Million – up 54% – As of March 2013, up from 488 million mobile MAUs in March 2012
- Instagram – 100 Million Monthly Active Users – As of February 2013
Facebook is still signing up people pretty quickly, but all users are not created equal. While it earned $3.50 per user in the U.S. and Canada in Q1 2013, it only made $0.50 per user in much of the developing world including India and Brazil. Those emerging markets are where Facebook is getting most of its growth, meaning each subsequent 100 million users added is worth less than the last.
Growth in mobile has a similar issue. Facebook can show as many as seven ads per page on desktop whereas it has to be more careful not to overwhelm the small screen on mobile. So as Facebook’s users shift their access medium to mobile, it may earn less on each of them. Facebook is hoping that getting developers to pay for mobile news feed ads to get their apps discovered could counteract this, and that market is poised to grow as more businesses launch apps and the developing world switches to smartphones.
Overall, though, Facebook is still growing strong nine years after launch. The network effect of its ubiquity should not be underestimated. Dislodging Facebook as the premier general purpose social network will require something that’s not just better, but much, much better. Competitors might pick away at certain use cases, but are unlikely to replace it as the core identity provider for the web. Considering Facebook’s willingness to buy out threats like Instagram (which is still growing quickly in the first world), could stave off disruption and let it reign for years to come.
- Local Businesses – 16 Million – up 100% – Number of local business pages as of May 2013, up from 8 million in June 2012
- Promoted Posts – 7.5 Million – Number of promoted posts made from June 2012 to May 2013
- Revenue – $1.46 Billion – up 38% – In the first quarter of 2013, up from $1.06 billion in the first quarter of 2012
- Ad Revenue – $1.25 Billion – up 43% – In the first quarter of 2013, up from $872 million in the first quarter of 2012
- Employees – 4,900 – up 38% – As of March 2013, up from 3,539 in March 2012
- Game Payers – 24% more – Increase from March 2012 to March 2013
There’s no doubt about it. Going public made Facebook focus more on making money. It went from nearly zero revenue on mobile to $375 million a quarter, or about 30% of its total ad revenue. That in large part came thanks to the mobile app install ads it launched late last year. These let developers promote their apps in the Facebook news feed with ads that link straight to download pages in the Apple App Store and Google Play. These stores are getting more and more clogged with apps, inspiring developers to pay Facebook to get found.
Facebook also made big headway with Facebook Exchange, its retargeted ads that use people’s browser histories to show them highly relevant ads. FBX is absorbing advertiser budgets set aside for retargeting. Less successful has been Facebook Gifts, its entrance into direct e-commerce. Gifts has failed to produce meaningful revenue and may need to be overhauled to get more users purchasing real-life presents for their friends. Growth in payments revenue has been relatively slow too, as more game developers move from Facebook’s web canvas where it earns 30% to mobile, where Apple and Google get that cut.
One opportunity that should excite investors is that Facebook started showing ads in Graph Search. While they use the standard Facebook targeting now, they’re expected to incorporate keyword targeting, which could make them a more direct competitor to Google’s wildly lucrative AdWords business. The increasing technological savvy of local businesses could be a boon to Facebook in the future. Right now few of them actively buy social ads, but expect revenue to shift towards Facebook and away from less targeted print and telephone book ads in the future.
Still, Facebook isn’t trying to make as much money as it could. Another year went by without TV commercial-style auto-play video ads (though they’re rumored to be getting closer to this), and it even paused its experiment with a mobile ad network. If Facebook built out these streams it might piss some people off or make them feel like they data is being exploited, but it could definitely produce a huge boost in revenue. Off-site and off-app ad networks could let Facebook leverage its enormous wealth of personal data to power ads elsewhere so it can earn money without showing more ads on its own properties. That potential more than any is an argument for why Facebook is undervalued.
Most importantly of all, Facebook’s efforts to earn more money have not significantly impeded its mission of connecting the world. There are definitely more ads on Facebook, especially on mobile, but the data shows that they’re not annoying users enough to reduce their engagement.
Facebook has grown up. It’s no longer the red-hot startup that could double its user count every year. And it’s not the mature corporation churning out amazing profits by squeezing every last dime out of its data and usage. But Facebook has weathered the storm of going public without letting it destroy its regard for the user experience. It’s now a fundamental utility for most of the world. If it can keep from getting too greedy and stay focused on the long-term health of its community, it will have plenty of time to figure out how to turn the world’s life story into serious business.
Any programmer or blogger knows that when you work on the Internet, on a computer, it’s easy to gain weight. Tech office pantries are stocked with Red Bull, candy, chips and even things you wouldn’t think were too unhealthy, like protein bars. Protein bars are basically injections of sugar. That’s why they taste like a Snickers.
But what no one talks about is that the “Startup 15″ or 40 is avoidable if you put in the effort, not to diet, but to be healthy.
Because she is constantly around tech geeks and herself works online, blogger Darya Rose, who is both my friend and the wife of Google Ventures Partner Kevin Rose, is acutely aware of this pain and has a solution: Foodist, a way to stay healthy without going crazy dieting.
Reading her book a couple of weeks ago, I came across a passage that struck me as truth. In “Instagram, A Parable,” Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom described a breaking point in his work/life balance as he tried to build the company. If you’re shoving down burritos in between database sharding, you probably can relate:
“We never ate healthy at the release,” recalled Systrom. “At least in the beginning, we’d be so into our work that crafting a salad out of arugula and radicchio just wasn’t going to happen midday.” Instead, they’d opt for the local food trucks or burritos near the office. Without their even realizing it, weight started to creep on.
“We were looking at old pictures from Instagram, and people were like, ‘Oh my God, you look so young,’ and I was like, ‘What does that mean? Do I have gray hair? That was like six months ago,’” Systrom explained. “After that I kept telling myself, ‘I’ve got to get healthy again.”
Systrom had gained 25 pounds between Instagram’s launch in October of 2010 and its first 10 million users. “I bought a scale one day and realized my weight was up to 235,” he writes in Foodist. ”And I had never been this heavy in my life. I used to be 210, and I was like, ‘That’s not okay.’ But I knew I was not going to pull a sorority girl and just eat salad, because I love food. I can eat less, but I’m not going to stop eating food I like just to lose weight. That would make me unhappy.”
How did he do it? Exercise, by waking up earlier, making sure healthy food options were available in the Instagram office, the buddy system and saving indulgences for the real deal. He also packed a gym bag before bed, like a true hacker of life. “I knew that if I didn’t pack my gym bag with the clothes I was going to wear the next day, I wouldn’t make it to the gym. I also needed to lay out my workout clothes. I’d wake up in the morning and just make myself a deal: ‘Listen Kevin, all you need to do is put on those clothes and you’ll wake up on the drive to work and you’ll be ﬁne.”
Instagram ended up getting acquired for what was a billion dollars at the time. And Systrom (and Instagram developer Shayne Sweeney who was his partner in crime) ended up losing all the startup-induced weight: “We can tuck our shirts in ﬁnally. Seriously, I can ﬁt into a large now and not the bulky extra large, and that felt really good.”
Google’s major developer conference, Google I/O, went down this week. Was it a bit of a letdown? Probably. Did cool stuff still come out of the event? Eh? Maybe? We discuss these topics and more this week on the TC Gadgets podcast. In fact, we even had Frederic Lardinois join as a guest, along with John Biggs, Matt Burns, Jordan Crook (that’s me!), Romain Dillet, and Darrell Etherington as Bob McKenzie.
We invite you to enjoy our weekly podcasts every Friday at 3pm Eastern and noon Pacific.
Intro Music by Rick Barr.
One of the more interesting projects to emerge from Evernote’s 2013 Devcup hackathon is called Postach.io, a new blogging platform that turns your Evernote notebook into a content management system. Input Logic, the Vancouver-based company behind the now just four-week-old service, has already caught the attention of local investors, as well as Evernote, who met with the team to discuss possible monetization ideas.
Input Logic was founded two years ago by UI designer Shawn Adrian and programmer Gavin Vickery, with the intention of becoming a software development firm. The company bootstrapped its first app, proposal writing aid QuoteRobot, and has sustained itself with contract work over the past couple of years. The five-person team (three full-time) has worked for clients, including Nest, Michael Kors, ski resort Mt. Washington, and others, doing everything from coding to design.
This year, the company stopped doing client work to focus on Postach.io instead.
Adrian says that, initially, neither he nor Vickery were Evernote users, having “not drank the Kool-Aid,” so to speak. But at the urging of Lance Tracey, Full Stack partner (now investor, who just funded the company with $200K), they decided to take another look.
“We started playing with it, got into it, and said ‘hey, this thing has really come a long way,’” Adrian explains. “And Gavin especially just got fully addicted to it,” he adds.
Later on, when the co-founders were collaborating on documentation for a newly redesigned QuoteRobot using Evernote, a thought occurred to them: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just publish it instead?” Vickery, too, wanted that same functionality for his own blog – he writes all his blog posts in Evernote anyway, why not just publish directly from there?
So they decided to build a service that did just that.
Having worked on CMSes in the past, the team built Postach.io to include nearly everything you would expect from a lightweight blogging system: customizable themes, RSS (Atom) feeds, built-in Disqus commenting, support for multimedia, and more. In fact, anything you can store in Evernote – images, audio, video/YouTube, etc. – will work on Postach.io, too.
Currently, the half dozen themes available are reminiscent of sites like Svbtle or Medium, favoring clean, minimalistic design and rounded icons. Now the plan is to extend Postach.io’s feature set even further, with special themes designed for Evernote Food and Hello app users, as well as support for social sharing, wikis, and community features designed to help new bloggers have their content found.
To use Postach.io yourself, after setting up an account and authorizing the service with Evernote, it’s only a matter of tagging posts in a pre-determined notebook with the tag “publish” to make them go live on your blog. You can also use Evernote’s date field to schedule posts for a later time.
Blogs are given their own subdomains like yourname.postach.io, for example, but you can have them work with your own URL instead, if you choose.
In the future, the service might monetize by charging for premium features or converting users to Evernote Premium, while doing a rev share with Evernote. But those ideas are still in the works. Today, the focus is on growing the product and user base, which today includes 1,500 bloggers who signed up since the April debut.
Blogging platforms, of course, are numerous – from the big guys like Tumblr, WordPress and Blogger to newcomers like Medium, Svbtle, and Posterous repository Posthaven. But the team behind Postach.io see the value in building on top of a successful platform instead of creating a destination site of their own. (And they’re not the only ones with the same idea: see also Everblog or maybe this IFTTT recipe.)
“One of the big things with Evernote is that you own your content – it’s actually on your own computer,” Adrian explains. “Even if our servers are struck by lighting and everything falls apart, everyone will have their blog posts.”
Interested users can sign up for Postach.io here.