A mobile messaging application called Inbox Messenger, which combines user privacy features with a minimalist design, has raised $3.9 million in seed funding, the company announced today. The investment, though higher than the average seed round, comes from a group of unnamed angel investors and is designed to help the company grow its engineering and product teams, expand its customer service, and enhance its feature set.
The NJ-founded, now NY-based, startup was founded last year by Maher Janajri, previously a growth strategy consultant at Accenture, whose background also includes mobile payments; and Hani Shabsigh, whose formal training is in chemical and biomolecular engineering, but who taught himself to code during his free time on nights and weekends.
Shabsigh originally had the idea of a messaging app with a “privacy screen” which he brought to a Startup Weekend hackathon where he met Maher. The two then developed the messaging app experience together, with a heavy focus on design – something they both felt was lacking in the space at present.
Inbox Messenger competes in what’s now a massively crowded mobile messaging market where giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook have staked claims – the latter with a couple of messaging apps, in fact – its own Facebook Messenger and its record-breaking acquisition Whatsapp. In addition, the category includes dozens of other big names, like Kik, Viber, Skype, Tango, LINE, WeChat, GroupMe, Telegram, KakaoTalk, and more, plus a variety of niche apps focused on dating, local networking and chat, “ephemeral” messaging, encryption, and more.
Inbox Messenger’s party tricks include the ability to “un-send” messages, including texts, images, voice messages and videos, which are also deleted from the company’s servers, plus the ability to “cloak” a message and then be alerted if a screenshot is taken. While popularized by Snapchat, the screenshot-alerting feature is something that’s now common to a number of competing apps.
In addition, Inbox Messenger also features a simple, clutter-free design, support for group chats, the ability to send drawings, and more. All of this is packaged into a clean and modern interface that’s easy to use. To get started, users create a username, password and provide an email address. They can then test the app by messaging the @teaminbox account to learn about the features, or search for friends on the service and begin chatting with them.
The problem, however, is that by simply putting out an amalgam of the best features from its bigger competitors (albeit in a pretty package) isn’t necessarily enough to overcome the challenges that newcomers face today in this market. Namely, how do they compete when there are already so many choices out there? And how can they engage users to continually come back to the app, when they’re already spread so thinly across so many others? These are the questions the company will soon have to face as its moves into its next phase.
The company declined to provide user numbers or growth metrics, but says it’s been seeing growing traction in the U.S., as well as in other countries including Brazil, Spain, and China.
App Annie, however, reports the app is only moderately successful – #217 in Social Networking on iOS, and not ranked on Google Play. (Google Play reports 5,000-10,000 downloads to date.)