The House Of Yo

Yo. This is not another “Yo” post…at least not an ordinary one. You see, the team of Yo just set up shop at its official headquarters in San Francisco.

Is it elaborately decorated with snow tigers, nap rooms and a giant buffalo greeting visitors in the lobby? Does it come complete with a replica of the Oval Office inside? What have the founders done with the cool million beyond the simple app that launched a thousand eye rolls this past week?

Naturally I went on over to take a look.

The company now flush with $1.2 million in funding is basically a guy in an Airbnb apartment. Yes, Or Arbel, the sole dude working on Yo, currently codes out of a studio apartment that he pays $150/day for in the middle of San Francisco’s Financial District.

The woman who sublets to him has no idea this is Yo HQ at the moment. I’m apparently the first reporter he’s let inside.

“This is where the magic happens,” Arbel says as he shows me the new app features he’d just pushed out 5 minutes before my arrival.

The bed is unmade (it’s in the same room as the table and chair he works at), a lump of disheveled clothes sit atop a suitcase on the floor near a tiny closet. There’s a small bottle of Naked Juice on the table. He looks tired. I ask about that. Arbel tells me he hasn’t had what he’d consider actual sleep since his arrival.

The phone rings non-stop as we’re chatting. He shows me his inbox full of VCs and people who want to talk to him about the app.

Arbel definitely hasn’t shaved. Has he eaten? Oh, and despite the silliness of the app, he’s completely serious about its future.

“People love to hate it but it’s a misunderstood app. It’s characterless, a new way to get notifications and to communicate. Nothing to open, no badge to remove…” Arbel could go on.

He just landed in the States a week ago to network and meet influential people. And yes, he’s meeting truly influential people. All that is off-the-record for now, though.

Arbel’s other half, Moshe Hogeg, is mostly working on their other projects back in Israel right now. “It’s just me. Surprise,” Arbel delivers this deadpan. A part of me can’t tell if underneath it all he sees this whole thing as a joke. But then he switches back to much seriousness and tells me the April 1st release of the of the app to the App Store was pure coincidence.

The app was so simple Apple rejected it at first. They didn’t think it was actually complete.

Arbel rolls his eyes when I ask about the hilarious app store reviews. There’s sarcasm in almost every review on the list. “This app saved the President,” “Yo the movement,” “I met my wife through Yo,” they say.

“That just happened. We didn’t do it,” says Arbel. He’s worried people think it was all part of the marketing plan. Arbel insists the flood of recent PR was completely organic. “People think we paid. We didn’t even realize this app would be so popular,” he tells me.

Yo just hit 1.2 million users and went #1 in the App Store at one point last week. It’s currently at #9 here, but still #1 on the charts in Israel, where the app was originally made…within 8 hours.

Love it or hate it, we also can’t seem to shut up about it. Stephen Colbert even skewered Yo last week, asking Y.

The new push this week means developers can now use the open API to create a “Yo” notice for their own site. We’re working on getting one for TechCrunch, but I am presently able to send you a “Yo” every time one of my stories hits. Just type in “TECHCRUNCHSARAH” to get that.

There’s also a “Yo” button you can add to share notifications from your website now.

Arbel is also in the midst of planning a hackathon sometime this week. Just type in “YOHACKATHON” and Arbel will personally “Yo” you when those details are up on the site.

I ask if the hackathon will be at the house of Yo. Arbel smiles and says, “Maybe.”