Worth Trying: Get Answers from Local Businesses with TalkTo
It’s a very busy day at the office. You have a million tasks to complete this week and no time to plan that ski trip with the kids next week. Does the mountain have ski helmets rentals? What time is check-out? Can you get a dinner reservation for 7pm? Do you really want to waste your time calling every business to find out these simple answers? That’s where a new app from Cambridge-based Talkto comes in to the picture. TalkTo is a free mobile app for iPhone and Android that allows you to communicate text-style with almost any local business and get real answers to your questions.
Starting from within the TalkTo application, you locate any business that you have a questions for and send it to them just like a text message. In a very short period of time, the business will respond with a text answer. You can see my conversation with the local Apple store on the right.
I didn’t know about this app when I started researching for the worth trying idea but, as a tech geek, I’ve become really excited about this very simple but powerful idea. I’ve used the app to find out everything from today’s dinner specials to where to buy parts for my Jeep. The app just works. TalkTo is something that should be on everyone’s phone right now. I only wish that I had thought of it first.
Stuart Levinson, TalkTo CEO and Co-Founder, provided us with some great insight on the product below.
What is your elevator pitch? Big idea?
TalkTo is the easiest way to get answers from any store in North America without calling.
It’s a huge time saver. You can just send your question and get a text response within minutes. It’s that simple.
What is your founding story?
Stuart Levinson and Riley Crane met four years ago and began experimenting with ideas focused on spontaneous communication with the crowd around you. Six months into the brainstorm and prototypes, they began to think about how valuable it would be to spontaneously communicate with the places around us instead.
We text our friends and family, so why would we want to call stores to ask about availability and prices? Or call restaurants to check on tables?
The goal was audacious — make it possible to text any and every local business in America and Canada and get a text response. Simple ideas can be the most disruptive.
Who is your target market?
Anyone that calls a local store or restaurant to ask a question. This isn’t about a target market, it’s about replacing the telephone.
What is your business model?
TalkTo makes it easy for local shoppers to engage with merchants in the moment they’re looking for something. Being the primary messaging platform between consumers and merchants offers many different paths to revenue that we’re only now beginning to explore.
What milestones can you share? – launch date, funding, users, revenue, etc.?
TalkTo launched in April 2012, and raised $3M from Matrix Partners. Today, TalkTo offers a free iPhone app (http://talkto.com/app/apple) and an Android app (http://talkto.com/app/android).
Who is on the founding team?
Stuart Levinson is a serial entrepreneur. IBM acquired his first company, Venetica, in 2004. After IBM, he and his family moved abroad to Italy for a few years before choosing Boston as their final destination. He spent a year as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at General Catalyst before launching TalkTo with Riley.
Riley Crane is the mad scientist of the team. He is a physicist and just prior to TalkTo was at the MIT Media Lab studying the behavior of large online social systems that’s hidden in big data sets. While there, Riley led a team that won DARPA’s “Red Balloon” Network Challenge by finding 10 randomly dispersed red balloons hidden throughout the continental United States in just 8 hours and 52 minutes. See him tell the story on Colbert: http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/260725/january-05-2010/riley-crane.
How did you build it? Did you outsource any of your product or design or build it all in house?
The products have all been built in-house thanks to a killer startup team. The company is based in Cambridge, and always looking for amazing talent!
What has been your biggest challenge?
Communication is so broad that it creates issues for a startup trying to find it’s focus. We originally started as a way to text any business or organization. When we realized our focus should be communication between people and the local stores and restaurants around them, things started to fall into place for us.
No more calls! Put TalkTo beside your telephone app, and the next time you start to call a local business, remember you don’t have to anymore! You can text them for any answer.