Is there room for a new type of social platform? Talkbits, a trader in short voice “bits”, is confident there is – and is officially launching its mobile apps in the UK and the US this week, with Turkey, Brazil, Singapore, Indonesia and South Korea to follow.
The Talkbits mobile app – for iOS and Android – offers a few ways to record and listen to voice bits. Users can tune in to location-based streams (similar to a Twitter for voice), open private or public group chats and send one-to-one direct messages.
Talkbits lets users send private voice messages (left) and tune in to public streams.
There are quite a few possible use cases. Imagine being stuck in a traffic jam and being able to ask a stream of other drivers around you for alternative routes without needing to take your hands off the wheel.
Yet, in most situations, text messaging or Twitter works just fine – why sign up for a whole new platform of social noise?
Just noise – or much-needed alternative to text?
Something easy to overlook: not everybody enjoys – or is able to use – text communication.
For Talkbits CEO Olga Steidl, communicating by voice is a personal preference. “My personal problem maybe – I hate reading. For example, in school, I was really bad at writing – I had the worst marks in Russian language, really bad at grammar.”
Conversely, “for me, for business, it’s really easy to call people,” she said. “When I call you, I have unlimited [calls] anywhere in the world so if I need to reach someone, I just call. I don’t text.”
Calls aren’t always convenient though and nobody likes using native phone voicemail. Existing apps also hit this direct voice messaging need (WhatsApp, Voxer and – as of last month – Facebook Messenger).
Talkbits is betting its social voice stream will help set it apart. The company also offers a white-label service to other developers. For that part of the business, Facebook’s move into voice messaging is actually helping potential clients take the Russian-Swiss startup more seriously, Steidl said.
Talkbits started up in March 2012 and is backed by $2m from Runa Capital. The Russian VC firm is somewhat of an incubation partner – while the product is different, the idea for the company came from an earlier Runa Capital voice venture, Telefir (no longer online).
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