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Snapchat, WhatsApp, SMS, Kik, Facebook Messenger, Line, WeChat, KakaoTalk…[deep inhale]…Tango, GroupMe, MessageMe, Firechat, Slack, Cotap, Yo. Am I forgetting anybody in the messaging app department? Rhetorical question — if I kept going this list would be the entire story.
The ways you can chat with people are never-ending. If you use even a quarter of them you’ve got a lot of texting to keep up with. That’s the problem new app Snowball hopes to solve. It launches Wednesday on Android, with $2.3 million in seed funding from First Round Capital and Google Ventures among others.
Snowball aggregates all your messages so instead of sorting through a bunch of apps you can do all your communicating in one place. Snowball has tapped into a time-honored tenet of tech companies: Own the medium, make money. By aggregating various services in one place, Snowball might win consumer attention and gain leverage over the messaging apps themselves, much the way [company]Expedia[/company] did for flights.
Of course, that’s only if Snowball can break through app store noise and convince consumers to adopt it. At the moment, its feature list is lackluster, largely because of phone operating system constraints. It’s only available on Android, not iOS, because iOS doesn’t offer a notification API for drawing in messages. It only works with a limited, albeit long list of apps — [company]Facebook[/company] Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, [company]Google[/company] Hangouts, [company]Twitter[/company], WeChat, Line, SMS and Slack — but not some of the others like Yo or Tinder.
Those may come in time. “To get the best possible integrations, we really want to work closely with all the messaging companies,” co-founder Anish Acharya told me. “But we’re small now.” The company only has five employees, if you include the office manager and the dog.
It’s an early stage product, in other words, but that’s not necessarily a reason to write it off. Acharya has the sort of background that inspires faith in investors. He founded, built and sold gaming company SocialDeck to Google before becoming an investor at Google Ventures. After a few years of investment life, he decided to get back into the company building game and became GV’s Entrepreneur in Residence, which is where he incubated Snowball.
Those connections and experience may help Acharya get attention for his effort. He’s tackling what, on the surface, seems like a fluffy first-world problem. But Acharya argues, and rightfully so, that many tech companies start out that way. “It’s a simple first product with ambitious implications,” he said. “If we can connect all these networks in an interesting way, then that becomes the future social platform.”
Messaging is the most frequent thing we do on our phones, so being able to save a couple taps creates a huge amount of user value. Furthermore, many chatting apps aren’t competitors. They have distinct roles for various communication needs – they’re different parts of our vocabulary and we need a way to string them together sensibly. You might message your mom on Snapchat when you pass a beautiful mural on the street, shoot her a Facebook message later when you see a funny Onion article and text her to tell her you’re on your way for dinner.
“We’re trying to organize your phone around people instead of apps,” Acharya explained.