In the last 10 years text messaging has gone from being a blip on the radar to one of the fastest-growing forms of communication.
According to trade group CTIA – The Wireless Association, there are more than 292 million wireless numbers in use in the United States and 173 billion text messages sent out monthly. The annual number for text messaging? CTIA reports it’s at 1.81 trillion texts per year as of June 2010. The numbers are staggering--and this news couldn’t be better for Jared Hecht and Steve Martocci.
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They are the founders of GroupMe, a text messaging service that allows you to send group text messages to any cluster of people you choose--using one mobile number.
“It’s about as easy as it gets,” explained Martocci. “No long sign-up process. Just go onto our Web site, give your phone number, you get back a new number and from there, it’s just a simple command to add friends.”
And it is user-friendly. By giving just minimal information, you are able to create groups of friends and family. Once the group members accept your request, they can text back and forth with one another. (And unlike mass texting, the people who receive the text are able to write back to the whole group.)
Simple idea, andfilling a need in a relatively unsaturated market. While there are competitors, newbie GroupMe is keeping busy trying to get to first place.
And these two tech-loving entrepreneurs' ears must be burning. Since officially starting in July, GroupMe has already gotten a lot of publicity in startupland as one of the next big things. They have already secured $850,000 in funding and are on their way to closing a second round this month.
The concept might sound like a new idea to most, but according to Hecht, the idea has been around for a while.
“People have been trying to do this for 10 years,” he said.
The difference between the others and GroupMe is that this company is focused not only on simplicity, but inclusiveness.
“We are appealing to the lowest common denominator. We think this service needs to work on all phones because the fact of the matter is if one person is left out of a group or cannot participate in the group because of the phone they have, it’s not a group. It’s not meaningful,” he said. “Everyone needs to be able to play.”
And even with the dinkiest $20 basic cell phones in the game, it seems like Hecht and Martocci are taking some of the exclusivity away from the WiFi-loving BlackBerry or the too-cool-for-school iPhone--and people are taking notice.
Six Shooter with Jared Hecht and Steve Martocci
1. You both have started companies prior to GroupMe. How do you know when an idea is good enough to move ahead with it?
Hecht: There are several things. First and foremost is gut instinct. You also need to have strong conviction about the product. If it's something you see yourself doing for the next 10 or more years, then it's worth pursuing.
Martocci: Great question -- for me it's when I know the product solves a problem I have and I'm positioned to solve it better than anyone else.
2. What inspires you?
Hecht: Our users are our biggest inspiration. Hearing about and seeing the way they use GroupMe gets us out of bed.
Martocci:To be honest my biggest inspiration is my friends and family, the people closest to me. GroupMe is for them, every time we release a feature, I get feedback from them to see if it's improved their lives.
3. What are your three biggest tips to wannabe entrepreneurs?
Hecht: Solve a problem that you have. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and will push you every single day. Trust your instinct.
Martocci: Build a good product. Find a good co-founder. Have fun.
4. What is the future for GroupMe?
Hecht: We want to be an integral part of people's on and offline lives. We want to be the real-life network that brings the people that matter to you closer together. We fundamentally believe that your real-life groups make things more fun and are a source of some of the best memories. We also believe that people are much more creative and expressive when they can share with people they know in a private environment. We're providing a platform for people to do exactly that.
Martocci: It's the real life network in your pocket. We are going to be your companion for having the best times of your life.
5. What does the future hold for Steve and Jared?
Hecht: GroupMe, GroupMe, and some more GroupMe.
Martocci: The best times of our lives...and board meetings.
6. Would you ever sell the company?
Hecht: Our goal is to turn this into a big NYC company and a long-lasting, sustainable business.
Martocci:Jared and I have a big vision for GroupMe and we want to see that out. We don't want to risk not being executed by selling, we think we are on to something big.