Walkie-talkie style Roger, backed by $1M from Social Capital, breathes new life into voice-messaging technology

By Staff Writer

Jan 25, 2016 10:55 PM EST

Roger's walkie-talkie style voice messaging app that launched in 2015 gets a financial backing of $1 million from Social Capital. The new feature was created by ex-Spotify employees, Ricardo Vice Santos and Andreas Blixt, who have done complete justice to the phrase 'selling old wine in new bottle'.

Voice messaging is no more a novel concept, not since the feature was widely used by iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook and WeChat customers. The idea first became popular in China as an alternative to typing out the Chinese characters. However, it did not gain much of a footing outside of Asia.

That is precisely the market Roger hopes to tap. The launch of this particular app came at a time when research showed that millennials dislike the sound of their own voices, and big names like Coca-Cola and JP Morgan Chase had rejected the idea outright, as represented by Time. The trick probably lay in Roger's simplicity of design, and the fact that the makers chose to compare their app to a walkie-talkie, a term much cooler than the stale 'voicemail'.

According to Walzar, the app, while off to a great start, comes with certain drawbacks. For instance, the functionalities do not include the option to save messages or even hear your own before sending them out. A double-click is required to listen to a received message, a feature not all like the walkie-talkie. While sent instantly, the messages do not play automatically nor can you cancel one once you start.

However, the makers are pretty unperturbed by the missing features. "The overall objective is how do we get people to talk more often," Vice Santos told Tech Crunch via the Roger app. He said the idea literally 'hit' him when he bumped into a pole while texting his friend in Sweden. The idea should revolutionize the current scenario of mobile zombies walking and texting at the same time, slowing down the human traffic around them. Also, the actual sound of a laughter is so much better than a 'LOL' popping up on the chat window.

As simplicity is their main USP, downloading and using is ridiculously easy. The free service simply needs to be downloaded followed by adding your number. The "+" button will automatically connect the app to your phone contacts, and one tap on a contact will throw up a big, red circular button which will record your voice message.

For now, Santos is not revealing how many users are currently using the app but kept it at "thousands in over 60 countries", while emphasizing on conversation threads and usage being of utmost importance than the actual numbers. Now available for iOS and Android Beta, clearly now the focus is on expanding their base, and not money.

"Monetizing too early can damage the platform. We want to grow the platform and return to this topic late[r]," Santos explained. "More than the money, having Social Capital involved [is important.] The things that [CEO Chamath Palihapitiya] have been doing are about behavior changing - creating something people aren't asking for, yet you change. We're about getting people to use voice again."

This was in context to Social Capital CEO's statement, "Phone calls are declining as communication increasingly moves to messaging, but texting lacks nuance and context. With Roger, Ricardo and team have built a beautiful app that takes the best aspects of these two mediums, creating a conversation platform that's far more dynamic and personal."

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