As the average cell phone user in the U.S. becomes more comfortable with text messaging, startups are busy creating services to unlock information with SMS. Only 36% of U.S. cell phone subscribers send text messages according to M:Metrics, though that usage grew almost 6% over the past months. This is a good opportunity for start-ups like 4INFO and 411Sync, and big players like Google, who are using SMS to find information like flight times, job listings, and movie times. TextMarks, a San Francisco-based start-up, joined their ranks recently but has created an SMS-info service targeting even smaller niches.
Ariel Poler created TextMarks late last year on a shoe string budget, with co-founder CTO Dan Kamins. Poler previously founded Topica and IPRO, was Chairman of the Board of LinkExchange, and now sits on the board of Odeo and is Chairman of StumbleUpon. Using TextMarks, consumers and small businesses can create a “TextMark” word, which a user texts to the company’s code “41411″ to receive a message in return. Say a book club wants to coordinate what time and day to meet up, or a local restaurant wants to publish its daily special, the code can be changed to fit the user’s needs. Examples of textmarks that users have already created include jokes, rental information and a code for checking on the moon’s phases.
The service opened up to the public a few weeks ago, and will likely have both free and premium services. The basic service is free right now. But making money and convincing users to pay for a TextMark might be difficult, given there are several other startups offering similar services. Startup Mozes offers mostly free codes for texting, though Mozes has more of a hipster feel and targets bands and advertisers. TextMark’s bare-bones site looks like something mom could easily figure out and use to organize messages for a kids soccer team.
Poler says he created TextMarks with very few funds so far, has not raised any venture funding, and has no immediate plans to do so. That means there is likely little barrier to entry for this initial service, and the success of the company will likely rely on how the company positions itself.
We decided to give the service a go — text GIGAOM to 41411 and get our daily message. What do you think? Too many start ups in the SMS Info space?