The new features are powered by URX, a San Francisco-based deep-linking search startup that graduated Y Combinator, and allow users to seamlessly interact with content from other apps via their keyboard, without leaving the app they are using. These features are the kind you might find in a messaging app, particularly those in Asia, but Fleksy wants to enable that kind of functionality from any app on your phone.
Fleksy’s keyboard app is one of the most popular out there, although the company would only say that it is used by “millions.” The app went free last month and the company’s future revenue opportunities are based around users customizing their keyboard with premium themes, and contextual services and opportunities to provide relevant information to users. (As we noted when Fleksy partnered with Imoji to add custom stickers back in May.)
The idea is a solid one. Keyboard apps are a constant for those who download them, they are red-hot real estate for anyone with an interest in mobile. Fleksy CEO and co-founder Kosta Eleftheriou told TechCrunch that users look at their keyboard an average of 180 times per day, and for a cumulative total of 90 minutes. Beyond being a constant part of their experience, Fleksy is also able to learn a lot about a user — that’s an area where Eleftheriou believes the keyboard can delight by providing useful services and assistance.
Initially the Flesky-URX tie-up makes the most sense for media — “when ‘Drake’ is part of a conversion, users are presented song recommendations inside SoundCloud and Spotify,” Fleksy said — but there are clear opportunities to go way beyond that.
URX makes money facilitating app downloads and re-engaging users — for the latter, think users buying items from a shopping app they already downloaded — and Eleftheriou admitted that some of the interactions that the tie-up with URX is powering will draw revenue for Fleksy. (Although he cautioned Fleksy won’t be flogging app install adds.) Other money-making opportunities, he said, will be unlocked over time thanks to the partnership, but some features will remain unmonetized and off-limits, existing only to enhance the user experience.
“A big part of what is required [to be successful as a keyboard app] is to make sure that the experience doesn’t feel crammed. There are a million different things you could add, but we first ask ourselves whether it makes sense and how a user can navigate a feature given the limited real estate of the app,” Eleftheriou said.
To give an idea of what is possible, he explained that Fleksy could partner e-commerce companies so that, when Fleksy users visit their website in a mobile browser, the keyboard app works with the retailer’s website to surface additional content “like a second screen.”
Another potential — and fairly obvious — use case could be taxi apps, or any other services that use location.
“Fleksy can understand the context of a conversation so that if you arranged to meet a friend at a specific location, you can order an Uber at tap of button from your keyboard and the destination is already set based on that conversation,” Eleftheriou explained.
To be clear, these integrations aren’t enabled yet and it’s still early days for Fleksy’s foray into services, but the fact that basic messaging like SMS, iMessage and stock Android SMS apps are hugely popular in the U.S. — as opposed to Asia, where each country tends to have a dominant messaging app — gives Fleksy a unique vantage point as a platform for value-added services.
“Suddenly a keyboard goes from a standalone tool to an entire utility kit at your fingertips,” Eleftheriou said. “Always relevant to the task at hand.”