A shy over a year ago, I wrote about 3 startups: Talko, Wire and Switch
All of them looked promising. All were using WebRTC.
In 2015, Switch had a meeting with $35 million, along with quite a few successful deployments in businesses big and small.
A month ago, Talko got acquired by Microsoft. I’ve interviewed here the Talko team in the past. Selling to Microsoft shows. Shutting the company. With little objections from customers. It all points to a single conclusion – Talko has been a failure when it comes to the business side of it. It probably had a solid technology – otherwise – why would Microsoft acquihire the team and fold it into Skype? I am sure Ray Ozzie and the team of Microsoft veterans in Talko added to this acquisition, but there was no other value in this transaction.
The Talko Team expresses it best on their updated homepage:
However, as engaged as many of you have been, the reality is that the broad-based success of communications apps tends to be binary: A small number of apps earn and achieve great viral growth, while most fall into some stable niche.
Talko didn’t grow fast enough or big enough. Clementine’s acquisition by Dropbox is similar. A communication solution geared towards team/group/enterprise communications gets acquired for its team with the service being left behind, never to be seen again.
And that’s in the less competitive domain of the enterprise. What will be with Wire? The third company I wrote about.
On Android, Wire reportedly has 100K-500K installs. Assuming iOS has twice as much (I am trying to be positive), that still falls way short of any of the messaging services we usually hear about – they are measured by 100’s of millions. Of active monthly users – not installs.
It is hard to see how Wire can change its abysmal future without a serious pivot or a drastic change in current market trends. Some will say this is a matter of a directory service and network effects. I think it is a matter of strategy and luck. Where Wire failed to attract the crowds, a different messaging service – Telegram, with 50M-100M installs on Android and a reported 60M monthly active users.
Wire was formed in 2012 and Telegram in 2013. So we can’t say Telegram had any head start here.
WebRTC makes it too easy to build and launch a communication service, which in turn, makes it hard to build a viable business with it. The role of product managers and people who need to think of the business case is more important than the technologists building the service when it comes to WebRTC. At the same time, finding good developers who grok WebRTC isn’t easy either.
2016 is going to be crucial for Wire.
What do you see for your initiative in 2016? Do you have a business case and route to market and money, or are you tinkering with the technology, assuming that if you build it they will come?