Introductory anecdote: I have a sister who never shuts up on the phone. I might call her just to give her a quick parking tip for a café that we’re going to meet at for lunch, and next thing I know, I’m stuck on the phone listening to her talk about all of her pregnancy symptoms and how her doctor told her she needs to gain more weight, etc. etc. Unless I’m willing to text everything I need to tell her (which isn’t very safe while driving, I’ve heard), the endless phone conversations are inevitable, and I’ve always wished for some way to just leave her a voice message without having to actually call her and risk having her pick up.
Today, a new app launches that does just that, while also taking group texting to the next level. CloudTalk, which is available on both iPhone and Android, lets you group text, post group (or individual) voice messages, share photos and videos, and organize your threads to keep track of different conversations.
The crux of the CloudTalk vision is the reintroduction of voice to communication.
“In all of our collective experiences here over the last 16 years, we’ve seen voice left out of the conversation more and more,” CEO and chairman David Hayden explained to me. “Email took over other forms of communication, and then there was the advent of text messaging. When we looked at the continuum of communications, we saw a gap between text messaging and voice communication.”
And CloudTalk was born.
What makes the app different from other kinds of messaging or texting apps is the fact that it allows users to leave one another voice messages. Think of all the times you’ve wanted to just share some information instantly but there was just too much to text. Either you’re stuck texting for 20 minutes (which defeats the purpose of texting) or you have to call and go through the normative socio-cultural phone rituals of:
“I know. I saw your name on my phone.”
“How’s it going?”
“Good, how are you?”
“Great, what’s up?”
It’s exhausting. And if you’re trying to organize a group meet-up, then you could be stuck on the phone with several people. With CloudTalk, you can open up a group conversation with an unlimited number of people and post voicemail-style messages, which, unlike actual voicemail, you can edit before posting. Additionally, you can post pictures, videos, and the app is integrated with Facebook and Twitter so you can share with friends or invite others into the CloudTalk conversation.
To keep track of different conversations, you can organize threads by topic so that you can go back and revisit when you need more information (I almost never write down addresses—people just text them to me and I leave them in my text history, and then next time I need their address, I end up rifling through my texts for an hour. Not an efficient system). And threads can include any combination of messaging systems—one user might respond to a text with a voice message, while another might respond with a video. All of the different forms of communication will remain part of the same thread.
The app has been in beta mode since October as the company tested out the application on over 45,000 users. Later this summer, CloudTalk plans to roll out a version designed exclusively for corporate users so that companies can build their own communities. The corporate version will be a paid app while the basic version will be free.
Interestingly, during its beta testing, the company found some unusual trends. While it initially thought that the app would appeal primarily to teenagers, the company has since found that it appeals to a much wider demographic, and its core users are actually parents.
CMO John Linney told me about one user, a man in his late 50s, who got his elderly mother and her doctor on CloudTalk so that the three could communicate more effectively and be on the same page regarding her care.
Earlier this year, the company raised $5.2 million from a team of angel investors.