There have been a few walkie-talkie mobile apps that have come out on iOS and Android over the last year or two, but it wasn’t until last fall that one of them had a breakout moment. Voxer suddenly hit it big with the young black community in Cleveland and a few other big cities last November. Since then, it has spread to the rest of the world, topping the app store and gaining a wide range of users – including venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road here in Silicon Valley.
By which I mean, lots of VCs are both using it, and looking at investing in it. Voxer has spent the last couple months working on closing an angel round that it had left open, according to industry sources, while also working on its first venture funding. It’s raising $15-20 million at a pre-money valuation of $150 million, says one person. Another counters, saying that the valuation is going to be at least double that.
Among the attractions, beyond the usage numbers, are the company’s patents and tech about its live-streaming voice service. Many of its competitors are essentially using existing voice mail technology, which results in delays between the person recording and the person getting the message. Voxer is able to make everything live, to the point that you can talk to each other at the same time. It is the most similar to the Nextel walkie talkie phones that have been out for years, except it lets you listen to messages whenever you want and talk one-to-one with other users.
Beyond the product and tech, one of the other main attractions is that the company is looking at doing what Nextel did, and distribute across larger organizations. Indeed, founder Tom Katis told me in November that the idea for the company resulted from his time as a soldier in Afghanistan, trying to coordinate reinforcements and medical teams during a firefight. He’s also the founder of one of the top security contractors in the world, Triple Canopy, so you can imagine him using his connections to that industry to help drive enterprise sales.
The big question now is how high investors are going to be willing to go. An additional source says that some top firms have been very interested, but are unsure of the company’s long-term trajectory. It has 2.5 million daily active users, one person says, but most of this growth has been in the last two to three months. The uncertainty here is what the future holds for Voxer’s style of communication – short-form voice message recordings, that users can listen to sequentially in a text-message style flow. The fact that VCs are finding the format valuable is no doubt helping the company raise.
I haven’t pinned down which venture investors are going to lead or participate, but names mentioned have included a good portion of the most prominent firms in the Valley.
Voxer is a Walkie Talkie application for smartphones. Voxer lets you send instant audio, text and photo messages to your friends (one or more!). Messages stream live as you talk and your friends join you live or listen later. Voxer is available for iOS and Android devices.