Startup Ad Hoc Labs, creators of temporary phone number generator app Burner, today announced a new investment round of undisclosed quantity that includes some notable Silicon Valley angels like Dave McClure’s 500 Startups, David Cohen, Kevin Slavin, Ted Rheingold and others. The money will go towards helping the company add new hires, and also continue its ambitious goals of expanding its mobile privacy protecting services.
For those not yet familiar with Burner, it’s an iOS app that generates disposable numbers with fixed expiry dates that can be disposed of with a single tap and used to make phone calls and send texts, which can be purchased via credits bought in-app. The concept has led to a lot of interest, both positive and negative, from media outlets and from consumers. Burner enjoyed a lot of time riding the top of the app charts shortly after its initial release, and continues to be among the top 2 percent of App Store titles overall.
Burner’s critics see it as a potential way to conduct criminal activity, like the kind the physical, disposable “burner” phones it’s named after are used for. But Ad Hoc Labs co-founder and CEO Greg Cohn says that Burner use is subject to the same laws as any telephony service operating in the U.S., and emphasizes that the app is designed more around helping users protect their privacy in situations where being selective about how much info you give out is prudent. Some such situations include online dating, buying and selling through Craigslist, and maybe sharing your number with fans or followers if you enjoy a certain degree of heightened celebrity online.
Burner’s present use cases are interesting and fairly broad, but it wasn’t always that way. At first, Cohn tells me that Burner in an early idea phase more closely resembled Dan Martell’s Clarity, and was literally a tool for setting up virtual office hours. The team felt that approach was too narrow in scope, however, and wanted to serve a wider range of customer needs, hence the app’s current, use-agnostic approach.
Next up, Burner wants to extend its reach even further. In a recent update, it already snuck in a preview version of a feature that allows third-party app developers to round-trip calls through Burner, so that users could in theory select a Burner number to make a phone call from an online classifieds or dating app. In this way, Cohn said that Burner hopes to become a sort of “wallet for numbers,” in a “Passbook style of approach,” and intends to pursue discussions with potential partners it sees as benefitting the most from such an application of its tech.
Burner had an interesting start, to say the least. But by looking towards other ways it can help provide users with varying degrees of mobile identity anonymity and accessibility, and to partnerships with other companies and products (white-label solutions look to be another future consideration), things should only get more interesting for the startup from here on out.