A team with extensive experience working with the OEMs, carriers, and platform makers in the mobile industry, and who was most recently tasked with the creation of the Facebook mobile experience for feature phones, is now preparing to take its former client head-on with a new, multi-platform social messaging app called Chaatz. Like Facebook, Chaatz will also target both developed and emerging markets, but aims to differentiate itself from the social networking giant with features that allow for more privacy, separate profiles for work and play, and a virtual phone number, similar to something like Google Voice.
The smartphone version of Chaatz, the first of many iterations of the app, arrives first on iOS with an Android launch planned for a week or so from now.
Chaatz was founded by Richard Cheung (CEO), Michael Wong (CTO), and Arnie Chaudhuri (Biz Dev), and includes a 20-plus person team in both Hong Kong and Singapore. Their location, combined with the team’s experience in the mobile industry, is what they hope will give them the advantage in a crowded mobile messaging landscape. In addition to Facebook for feature phones, the team has previously helped build app stores for Nokia, LG and Samsung, for example, and claim to have a deep understanding of everything mobile from the manufacturers and carriers to the chipsets and the platforms.
Explains Chaudhuri, they realized there was the potential for something like Chaatz to take off after the launch of Facebook for feature phones, which the team, then as another company, built in conjunction with Facebook. Facebook’s app did well in these emerging markets, prompting the group to think that there was a gap that could be filled. “Maybe we are the guys who understand platforms so well, and chipsets so well, and the market so well – maybe we are the guys who should be filling up that gap?” Chaudhuri says the team wondered.
With Chaatz, the company wants to reach consumers worldwide, “regardless of where they live in the world or whether they have a smartphone or not,” he adds.
Though the smartphone application is out now, the company’s larger focus is on the under-served feature phone market which they plan to reach via deals with OEMs and carriers. Already, they’ve sealed feature phone partnerships with Intex Mobile and Rage, and a global partnership with TCL Alcatel. Other deals are in discussions now too, with a carrier in Indonesia, and two other manufacturers in the Philippines, and another in Vietnam.
In many cases, Chaatz will be provided to end users through pre-loads, as feature phones don’t often have a way to load apps directly, Chaudhuri says.
As for the Chaatz app itself, it’s fairly standard, allowing for things like text, photo-sharing, and voice, like many mobile messaging competitors on the market today. However, what makes Chaatz notable is its support for multiple identities – that is, you can create different profiles, including anonymous ones – in order to connect with family, friends, co-workers and others using the service.
These can also be associated with an (optional) voice number, which helps to protect user privacy by not revealing a person’s actual cell phone number.
That makes Chaatz workable for children, too, points out Chaudhuri, who notes that kids could chat about their homework assignments with others, including teachers, without having to disclose their more private information, like their cell number (or parents’ cell). The number can even be transferred to non-cellular devices, such as the iPad or Android tablets, to offer connectivity even when away from a phone.
Further down the road, the company sees Chaatz being available on all platforms, including wearables like smartwatches, where it wouldn’t even require an accompanying smartphone to sync its messages.
Chaatz for iOS is available for download here, with Android to follow. The feature phone app will debut sometime in mid-Q2 to early Q3, we’re told.
The company is backed by an undisclosed amount of angel funding from local mobile industry investors and is somewhere “above six figures.”