Ansa is a new breed of messaging app, one that allows you to be yourself. Whenever you don’t feel like sending messages that will stay on your friend’s phone, you can go off the record. Every message will be deleted 60 seconds after reading it. This is just one of many privacy features that will make messaging more personal. Launching onstage at Disrupt SF, the app is now available on iOS and Android.
“The difference with other texting apps is that everything you say is permanent,” founder and CEO Natalie Bryla told me in a phone interview before Disrupt. “If you think about that, you will want to use another app that allows you to talk more freely,” she continued.
The main feature is the off-the-record button. After hitting a button, your recipient is notified of the change. Both your messages and the responses will be deleted. At any point, you can go back on the record and the recipient will be notified.
But it doesn’t stop there. If you think you shouldn’t have sent a message, you can delete it hours, days or even months after sending it. It not only deletes it on your phone, it deletes it on your recipient’s phone as well. This feature is called “sync deletion.” All Ansa features put you in control of your conversation.
When you delete a message, it is deleted from Ansa’s servers at the same time. It’s effectively gone forever. However, for your regular on-the-record converstations, Ansa keeps everything on its servers like Facebook does. It allows you to use another phone and find your conversation history.
Finally, you can send self-destructing messages. While this feature is very reminiscent of ephemeral startup Snapchat, Ansa allows you to send text messages, photos and videos. And it’s just an additional feature that makes sense to the service.
The app allows you to communicate in more creative ways. You can apply filters to your pictures and draw goofy things before sending them. If you want to communicate using a popular song or a cute image, you can search Google images and YouTube without ever leaving the app.
All Ansa features put you in control of your conversation.
To notify you when your friends join Ansa, the app allows you to sync your address book and Facebook account. But it seems like Ansa users are going to use the messaging app only with a few close friends — so they don’t have to convince their entire address book to switch to a new service.
When asked if group messaging was possible, Bryla said that the startup won’t develop this feature, “because we think it’s not personal.” In fact, Ansa works a lot like good old text messages. “You can send one message to multiple people and they can respond individually,” she said.
Ansa targets college students because they experience a lot of changes in their lives. For example, you can delete an entire conversation in a few taps. On your recipient’s phone, your messages will be gone and he or she will keep his or her own messages.
Based in San Francisco, the team of eight has raised $250,000 so far. For now, the startup is focused on polishing the product and getting it in everyone’s hands. But Bryla hinted at potential advertising opportunities.
Ansa could become an ephemeral ad platform, with ads in the native stream. For example, one could imagine a deal from Chipotle that disappears after 60 seconds. You have to act fast if you want to get the deal. But one thing is here to stay: the Ansa app, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Questions & Answers
Judges: Patrick Gallagher (CrunchFund), Julia Hartz (Eventbrite), Rick Klau (Google Ventures), Matthew Prince (CloudFlare)
JH: How do you compete with Snapchat?
A: I need more than photos.
RK: What data do you have that this is a big opportunity?
A: It’s been interesting talking to people. Snapchat is targeting a younger group. When I’m talking to older people, they really get Ansa.
MP: A server component that is holding my content. Where are copies of my messages? Should I trust Ansa for business communications?
A: Everything is encrypted. When you send a message, it goes to our servers then it gets delivered. If you do a sync delete, it’s deleted from our servers.
PG: What is the background of the founders?
A: Before this, I’ve been doing a subscription and delivery startup.