Invi, a startup trying to integrate a broad range of media into the texting experience, is launching on Google Play today. It’s also announcing a seed round of $750,000 from Li Ka-Shing’s Horizons Ventures, Atlantic Bridge, and various angel investors.
Co-founder Iddo Tal argued that texting has become “totally unattached from what the smartphone can do.” If someone wants to share an image from Pinterest or a video from YouTube, it’s a clunky experience. They’ll probably send you a link, which means you have to leave the conversation behind while you open up a browser or a separate app.
So invi allows you to view that content directly within the app. Tal and his co-founder Lior Gonnen returned repeatedly to the example of watching a YouTube video, but the service also integrates with other platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest — not just for viewing content, but for sharing it, too.
Even if you send a link to a service that invi doesn’t integrate with directly, the app will still create what Gonnen called “a beautiful, interactive widget” previewing the linked website. (I don’t have an Android device, so I had to go by the team’s description and the screenshots that they sent.) Eventually, Tal and Gonnen said they want to turn invi into a platform where other developers can integrate their services with the app, too.
The app is free. Tal said there are a number of possible revenue streams, including referral fees if someone uses the app to purchase content.
To illustrate invi’s usefulness, Tal said he has a friend who’s always texting him with links to “YouTube clips of him doing stuff.” If his friend was sending those links as a regular text message, Tal would have to tap the link, opening up the YouTube app to watch the video — or he might just ignore the links altogether. With invi, he can watch the videos without leaving the app and, for example, send a message to his friend about what a terrible guitarist he is while the video plays.
Tal and Gonnen both sounded enthusiastic about launching exclusively on Android, but they said they want to reach a cross-platform audience, so they’re ready to look for team members who can build iOS and Windows apps, as well.