YC-Backed Locent Lets Businesses Sell Products Via Text Message

Launching out of the Summer 2015 Y Combinator batch, Locent is an e-commerce platform powered entirely by text messages.

One of the biggest challenges for online retailers is shepherding customers through a lengthy checkout process. By providing businesses with a custom, text-enabled phone number, Locent turns the checkout process into just a text message.

Here’s how retailers use the service: After creating an account and being assigned a custom number, stores can use Locent’s backend to create different items, complete with price, photo, and keyword.

When a user texts that keyword to a store’s number, they automatically get a link to a payment form to complete the transaction from their phone.

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While Locent eventually is planning to target physical and online retailers, they are currently focused on helping brands and influencers sell through existing marketing channels.

For example, the company recently teamed up with Shonduras, a Snapchat celebrity, to push out a Locent-enabled phone number that would reply to fans with a link to subscribe to a Twitch channel. Over a 12-hour span the number received more than 8,000 texts from fans, who instantly received a reply with the Twitch channel link.

Matt Joseph and Ryan MacInnes, co-founders of Locent, explained that their service lets any marketing channel become a one-click point of sale.

The company is also looking into using Locent as a donation platform, especially with 2016 presidential candidates as they begin fundraising campaigns. For example, politicians could be on stage at an event and give our their Locent number, which users could text to instantly receive a donation page.

While the service is built on top of known platforms like Twilio and Stripe, Locent ties these technologies together into a platform that is easy for all business owners to use.

For this convenience, the company is charging retailers a 3 percent commission, which is on top of Stripe’s fees (2.9 percent + 30 cents).

Locent has raised $630,000 in seed funding from Y Combinator and Chaac Ventures.