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Summary:

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 […]

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?

  1. Hi Katie,

    Thanks for the write up. I just wanted add a little more information. 411Sync is community powered. Users create searches that can be used by other users (vis SMS, Email and WAP). In the month of August, about 25 mobile search queries are being created everyday. Example: text “gigaomblog” to 415-676-8397 and get the latest headlines on SMS. Or use the WAP interface – wap.411sync.com.

    Using keywords has the clear advantage that you get the correct information fast. And thats what is needed when you are on the go.

    Thanks
    Manish Lachwani

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  2. Yeah, well, I just wasted 10 minutes trying out TextMark. I have Cingular. All I did was create a simple SMS message with the key word MOON and then when I entered 41411 as the number to send it to, I was denied. My phone did not give me a reason as to why it failed, but the message was not sent from my phone. Why? If there is another code that needs to be included, such as a code specific to Cingular or Verizon or what have you, then the TextMark HowTo web page should give us this information (it wouldn’t be that difficult to do since there’s not too many mobile phone operators). Disappointed and 10 minutes of my time was wasted so who will reimburse me for my attention that I paid?

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  3. Dear edv,

    Sorry to hear that your SMS was not sent. There is actually nothing else that you need to do: just send an SMS to 41411. Not sure why your message was not delivered… Could it be something about your phone or your wireless plan? As far as we can tell our system is working properly for Cingular subscribers (as well as all other major US carriers).

    Would be glad to help you offline. Just send me an email to support AT textmarks DOT com.

    Regards,

    Ariel Poler
    TextMarks Inc.

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  4. hi ariel,

    where can i call you?

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  5. I’ll give a thumbs up to TextMarks, especially the personal interest Ariel takes in the project. I too had trouble getting started. Ariel responded to my email in record time informing me that their sms gateway neglected to include my carrier.

    In less than a week’s time all is working well. TextMarks delivers as promised

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  6. You can make alot from this service if you sell the right type of info!

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