Connected2Me Is A Throwback To The 90’s Chat Room

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Internet Relay Chat has been on the decline since 1999, but a new generation of teens around the world seem to be discovering the joys of anonymous chat rooms thanks to Turkish startup Connected2Me.

Connected2Me is a one-on-one chat service that connects registered profiles with anonymous site visitors. The key to the site is that you don’t have to be registered to use it, which enables you to appear as anonymous to other users.

The site is designed to let registered users find out what their friends think of them. Anonymous visitors can select registered user profiles they see live on the site and click on the known user’s profile to start chatting. The registered user, meanwhile, has no idea who is on the other end of the chat.

Connected2Me doesn’t currently support group chat, but co-founder Ozan Yerli tells me that feature will be added in the near future. This makes it slightly less robust than the group chats and anonymous profile setups of the late 90’s, but it’s designed on the same idea.

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According to Yerli, a lot of teens are using the site to find out if their school crush likes them or not. “They might see that their crush is online and chat anonymously with them, ask them questions to find out who they like,” he told me.

This seems to work the same way for adults. Yerli says he met his girlfriend on Connected2Me this way. He also tells me that several Turkish celebrities are using the site to allow fans to chat with them directly.

According to the founders, Connected2Me now has 2.8 million registered users from all over the world, most of which are in their teens and early 20’s. The site also has a strong base of mobile registered users, doubling from 700,000 in December to 1.4 million in January.

Notably, those numbers do not include the many that come to the site and web app anonymously. Yerli didn’t want to share an exact number of anonymous users, but estimated it to be about a million.

Like Yik Yak, After School, and other anonymous chat apps, removing identity could potentially lead to bullying, especially among teens. Unfortunately Connected2Me doesn’t offer a way to combat that type of harassment at the moment.

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Yerli and his co-founder Yurdakul Orhun met in high school. Yerli, a 25 year old software developer with a PhD in Computational Physics, seems too young to remember the early chat room days of the Internet, but says he enjoyed them, “because of the girls.” He also liked the idea of randomly talking to strangers from all over the world.

He built the site based on anonymous chat by himself back in 2011, then later recruited his old high school buddy to come on board. Orhun was working as database administrator at one of the largest banks in Turkey at the time. Yerli says he thought Orhun could add his experience in Erlang language, an industry standard in real-time communications. Plus, he figured it’d probably be more fun.

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Connected2Me is free to both registered and non-registered users. But according to Yerli the site produces a profit by enabling registered users to buy credits AND promote their profiles. That gives them more visibility on the homepage, which means more people to potentially chat with. For $1.99 you get 30 minutes of promotion.

The site was a part of the 500 Startups Batch 11 companies. It recently raised a seed round from a number of Turkish investors, bringing the total amount of funding up to $515,000.