A startup called VaporChat has raised $1.5 million for its newly launched mobile application which pushes the concept of “ephemeral” messaging further by not only allowing users to un-send text and photos, but also control whether or not message recipients can copy or save the content being shared over its service, and much more.
Today, there are a number of “disappearing” messaging apps on the market, including of course Snapchat, as well as those more specifically focused on privacy and security, like Wickr, Frankly, Confide, Telegram, Leo, Glimpse and others. But VaporChat’s differentiator is that it offers users more granular controls over their messages’ content by enabling them to configure various global settings for how they want that content protected within its app.
Like many apps, VaporChat lets you un-send messages at any time, which means you’re wiping them off of the recipient’s device. But that’s only one of many privacy settings the app includes.
In VaporChat, there are two main modes for texting: a “regular” mode and a “vapor” mode, where content will disappear automatically after a time frame you specify. In each mode, users can configure whether or not a recipient is allowed to copy and paste from the messages they get via VaporChat. If you disable this, the “copy” option won’t appear for text-based content, and the sharing feature associated with photos, where you could save typically save a photo to your Camera Roll or post it to social media, for example – is grayed out.
Explains founder Ken Fried, the idea with VaporChat is to offer a solution for users’ most common pain points when it comes to the privacy of their messages. In addition, he notes, you can have the app alert you when a recipient takes a screenshot, too, and you can have VaporChat configured to automatically “vapor” (delete) the entire conversation when that event occurs.
Another protection lets you configure the app so your name doesn’t appear in the chat message itself. That way, if someone does take a screenshot – or if they use a second camera to snap a picture of the screen without your knowing – your name won’t appear in the photo.
Plus, you can turn on or off the copy/paste protection on a case-by-case basis. For example, if you normally don’t permit this action but end up texting something you want to allow a friend to copy – like the address to the party – you can click a button to quickly disable the setting on a per-text basis.
Fried, who founded VaporChat in late 2013, previously spent two decades on Wall St., including 12 years at Goldman Sachs, before getting into angel investing in 2000 where he backed companies like the now publicly traded Cornerstone OnDemand and contextual ad network Quigo, which was acquired by TechCrunch parent company AOL back in 2007. He actually took the reins of one early-stage investment of his which was beginning to build a business-focused app to create VaporChat instead.
The motivation, Fried explains, came from seeing then what he believed was a massive void in the market. On the one side, there were a lot of regular chatting apps, and on the other, were a handful of ephemeral apps. “But no one really successfully bridged the two,” he says. “It’s my view that most people just want to text like they regularly do…I said I don’t want to just build an ephemeral app, I want to build a robust, scalable, globally accessible app…But I want to give users the option to be in total control over every single aspect of their chatting experience.”
In future builds, Fried says the app will introduce more features designed to make chatting “fun,” including some proprietary features he declined to detail.
It’s worth also noting that VaporChat isn’t promising the military-grade encryption of something like Wickr. Its messages aren’t stored on the server, though, so it forgoes end-to-end encryption. It does use 256-bit SSL encryption, however. And for added security, users sign up with a phone number, not a username and password combo.
The company is a team of nine in New York, and is backed by Social Starts, as well as a number of angels including Ed Wise, SVP, Managing Director of Branded Content at Turner Broadcasting.
VaporChat is currently iOS-only.