Media & Entertainment

Cord Project Launches Voice Messaging App That Borrows The Good Parts Of Texting


Cord Dialer
Image Credits:

With the Cord Project, a pair of former Googlers are aiming to encourage people to use their smartphones for something a little unusual — talking to other people. You know, with your voice.

Now, the obvious question here is, “Uh, can’t I already do that with my phone? Isn’t that, like, the whole point?”

But literally right before I met up with Cord Project co-founders Thomas Gayno (CEO) and Jeff Baxter (designer), I had a moment that handily encapsulated some of the reasons behind the app. I was standing outside their office, shivering (it was a winter night in Brooklyn), struggling to text them (through gloves!) and let them know that I’d arrived. Then I remembered that I had this amazing device that could actually communicate instantaneously, and required only minimal use from my hands — why the heck was I bothering with text?

Now, my avoidance of phone calls has probably gotten more than a little out of hand, but people text a lot, is what I’m getting at. And while voice has been incorporated into other messaging apps, it’s usually shoehorned in there with text and/or photos, rather than creating a new or unique interface. (For example, Gayno said that when people send multiple voice messages in WhatsApp, you end up with “this thread of play buttons,” which isn’t very appealing.)

And plain old talking still has plenty of advantages — not just in situations where you really want to get ahold of someone so they can let you into their office, but also, as Gayno argued, when a little more emotion is called for.

So The Cord Project’s hope is to take the things that are good about texting (like the fact that you don’t have to answer right away, and you don’t have to listen to minute-long voicemails) and bring them back to voice messaging.

“You get the emotion and the nuance you get with a call with voice, but you also get the speed and asynchronous communication that you get with text,” Baxter said. “It’s this great middle ground that no one’s nailed yet.”

Cord Messages

Gayno and Baxter gave me a quick demo of the app, which is called Cord, and I’ve been trying it out myself over the weekend (partly because other TC team members have started using it, too). It’s a pretty simple interface — you see a homescreen with images of people you’ve talked to recently, and if you tap on those icons, you can listen to their most recent message. You can also hit the microphone button to record a message of your own — the message has to be 12 seconds or or less, and there’s a little indicator that shows how much time you have left.

Other features include the ability to save your favorite messages, to send a message to multiple recipients, and to bring up your full phone book of contacts.

As soon as the demo ended, I brought up features that I’d want to add, like the ability to block other users, create groups, and search through my favorite voice messages. Apparently that’s all on the road map, though some of the items are probably closer to fruition than others — Baxter said blocking will be “the very next thing we implement.” And the long-term goal is also to move beyond smartphones to other devices, like smartwatches and other wearables. (After all, when Gayno and Baxter worked together at Google’s Creative Lab, a lot of their work involved Google Glass.)

The Cord Project raised $1.8 million in seed funding led by Lerer Hippeau Ventures and Metamorphic Ventures, with participation from Google Ventures, Greycroft, Dave Morin’s Slow Ventures, and Gary Vaynerchuk. Gayno and Baxter touched on a number of different possibilities for making money, like selling stickers or offering a version for team communication.

The company actually launched an iOS version of the app back in September, although Baxter and Gayno argued it was really just a test version — they consider today, with an improved iOS app and their first version on Android, as their true launch.

By the way, the Cord Project team also released an app called Shhout, with what Baxter called “anonymish” voice messaging. (It’s not completely anonymous because, well, your voice isn’t actually disguised.) Basically, it was an experiment with public messaging — Gayno said that while the company focus is on Cord itself, it may do other “little spinoff” apps in the future, with the aim of testing ideas that aren’t quite ready for the main product.

“We come from this culture at Creative Lab and Google of really experimenting and trying things even if they might seem weird,” Baxter said. “We wanted to continue that similar spirit.”

More TechCrunch

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI to remove ChatGPT’s Scarlett Johansson-like voice

Consumer demand for the latest AI technology is heating up. The launch of OpenAI’s latest flagship model, GPT-4o, has now driven the company’s biggest-ever spike in revenue on mobile, despite…

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

24 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake