Messaging applications—and the startups that have created them—occupy a unique and advantageous position in the larger landscape of consumer technology companies. Much like how Oculus’ $3 billion acquisition by Facebook cemented the arrival of consumer virtual reality products, so too did Mark Zuckerberg’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp for messaging apps. In Washington, D.C., a crop of diverse messaging-centric startups are carving their own path.
According to data from online statistics portal Statista, between just WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, approximately 700 million active users tap into messaging apps, monthly. That user pool provides massive opportunity to a range of businesses and organizations.
Messaging apps are used about four times more frequently each day than the average usage of all other mobile apps. In addition, they carry an impressive 68 percent retention rate after 1 month, according to 2015 data from Yahoo’s Flurry.
In translation: for companies who are able to successfully integrate a messaging component or are able to build off of it as a central theme, the technology can offer substantial user base growth potential and activity.
What this may mean for the D.C.-area in terms of investment and tech sector growth remains unclear. What is clear, however, is that the area is home to a core group of young companies that are working to innovate in the space.
Here’s 5 D.C.-area messaging startups to watch:
ArmorText (McLean, Va.)
ArmorText recently raised over $2 million in Seed funding back in February to hire several marketing and engineering professionals and to open a new office in San Francisco, former ArmorText Director of Darrell Poe told DC Inno. The startup has developed a cloud-based secure text messaging service that also enables data auditing and history filing options. The service is ideal for individuals who work in organizations related to healthcare, financial services, and/or public sectors, due to the sensitive nature of the content that is sometimes transferred via different devices.
Priveo (Sterling, Va.)
Priveo offers a mobile application for exchanging private video, audio and SMS messages. The startup has pivoted several times during its history, as CEO Steve Altizer previously told DC Inno. Originally a messaging app that focused solely on video communications, the company has since decided to include audio and text options. Before that, Altizer thought that Priveo would be a website based around sharing instructional videos. The company is still developing and remains an early stage startup, having never received venture capital investment. The company’s core products include direct sale of its API, a secure video forum for private groups called Collaborate and Channels, which provide a medium for manufacturers, advertisers and publishers to reach customers directly.
Notify Anywhere (Arlington, Va.)
Notify Anywhere is not a traditional messaging startup. Instead, it offers a platform for businesses to get the word out to a list of previously recorded contacts. Notify Anywhere has created a CRM (customer relations management) platform that combines everything from voicemail recording features, easy tools to post a blast of messages from social media accounts, emails subscription services and text alert set-up features.
The idea is to sync and easily broadcast a message to a cohort of specific contacts. Clients use the services for things like promotional calls, reminder emails, mobile alerts, party invitations, election campaigns, greeting, cancellations, fund raising and emergencies. Pricing is setup in a pay-as-you-go model, the largest offerings costs $100 and brings either 100 customized phone call messages or 100 SMS messages to send to contacts. Notify Anywhere is an early stage startup, founded and run by CEO Ajay Maheshwari.
Yapper (Washington, D.C.)
If you’re a regular to the D.C. startup pitch circuit then you have probably heard of Yapper and its CEO, Justin Lichtenstaedter. At a base level, Yapper is a location-enabled messaging application that hopes to connect people with similar backgrounds that are geographically close to one another. Where the mobile messaging app was once set up to allow users to engage with each other as long as they were within a certain distance, the startup pivoted hard recently.
Today, Yapper designs blank label mobile messaging apps for trade groups, alumni organizations, large corporations and social groups, among other clients.
Ribl (Washington, D.C)
Ribl launched back in March, in time for co-founder Mike Chan to take it on the road to SXSW. The famous tech-centric conference served as a sort of trial ground for an early, beta version of Ribl and since then Chan has worked with his four-person team to update the messaging board application. The app lets users share and discover relevant content based on the proximity of their locations. Once a user enters an “active” area, they can view stories and publish material that they have created and discovered.
— ribl (@riblapp) March 14, 2015
It’s all set up in a sort of real-time community newsfeed with texts, articles, images and video connecting users with the surrounding area and each other. At the center of this sharing activity is message-based communication tools and a bank of unique, user-generated content. Ribl hopes to secure a seed round later this year, Chan previously told DC Inno. At the moment, the startup is focused on developing it’s mobile platform and in attracting new users to build a Ribl community of content authors. Ribl app is currently functional just in Washington, D.C.
Brazen (Arlington, Va.)
Brazen is a software development company that creates platforms for real-time messaging and collaboration. It was originally designed to help organizations recruit new talent, but has since been rebranded as a more versatile work tool that facilitates conferences and outreach to fundraisers. The main distinction between Brazen and other work tools like Slack or Go2Meeting is that Brazen is built around an event model, meaning that people set up specific meeting times and then close the event at the end. The company raised $4.7 million this June in a funding round led by Osage Venture Partners and had previously raised $2.1 million in 3 rounds, according to Crunchbase.