When a good idea comes along, often what you see are multiple startups pop up who were all working on it independently but launch around the same time. Look at Foursquare and Gowalla in geo-location apps or Instagram, PicPlz, and Path in geo-photo apps. Right now, a lot of the action seems to be in group messaging, with Groupme, Beluga, and Fast Society all vying for mobile group supremacy. Groupme, which came out of one of our TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathons, recently raised $10.6 million (sending all those text messages is expensive); Beluga was started by a few ex-Googlers, and Fast Society is still bootstrapping but blew people away at Chris Sacca’s Tahoe conference.
I recently caught up with Fast Society CEO and co-founder Matthew Rosenberg in New York City to understand why everyone is going gaga over group messaging. After all, it’s nothing new—one of the original use cases for Twitter was as a group messaging platform. In the video above, Rosenberg explains what he is trying to do with Fast Society. It is targeted specifically at 13 to 30 year-olds, young people going out in groups. Fast Society’s tagline is “Built to Party.”
With Fast Society’s iPhone app (it also works with text commands), you can create groups from your contact list or add people to groups, and then send group text messages or initiate a conference call (everyone gets a number to call into). You can also share your location with everyone on a map. Unlike most of the other group messaging apps, groups are designed to be temporary. You set them up for a few hours a or a couple of days, and then they disappear. (Groupme has this functionality also, but it isn’t the default way you set up groups). The idea here is that groups are fungible and they change every night you go out.
The key thing here is that these groups are private and you are not broadcasting to the entire world and your Mom on Twitter or Facebook. “My Mom ruined Facebook,” says Rosenberg. He promises, “Fast Society won’t get you grounded.” The app is already being sponsored by MTV, which is promoting its new show Skins on it.
My prediction is that at this year’s SXSW conference, Fast Society and the other group messaging apps are going to try to break out. But like any social app, whichever one gains the most traction earliest will have the advantage because you are going to use the app your friends use. Which one will you adopt?