With messaging apps like WhatsApp, Line, and Viber fighting for growth around the world, is there room for smaller, newer players? Charge Messenger thinks so and to prove that point, it just announced $1.7 million in seed funding and a new web client that lets users sync chats on their iOS and Android devices to desktop.
The startup’s current investors and advisors include Pelion Venture Partners, Atlas Venture, Maiden Lane Ventures, Metamorphic Ventures, Cherubic Ventures, Craig Walker, the founder of GrandCentral (renamed Google Voice after its acquisition by the tech giant), Twilio co-founder John Wolthuis, and Slicehost co-founder Matt Tanase
Charge Messenger first launched as Bolt, but rebranded to avoid confusion with Instagram’s one-tap photo messenger. Founder Andrew Benton originally asked Instagram to reconsider its name, but says his startup reached an “amicable agreement” with the Facebook-owned photo app.
“We’re very happy with the new brand and its connotation of charging into battle,” he tells TechCrunch.
Charge’s seed funding will give it ammunition as it hires new employees and develops new products. The startup hasn’t released user metrics yet because it just launched out of beta, but it is seeing growth in India and the Middle East as well as the U.S.
One of the app’s signature features is called “GIF roulette” and lets users add a random GIF to their chat by typing “+gif” followed by a word or phrase.
Charge’s GIF roulette is similar to Giphy’s integration with enterprise chat service Slack, and competes with GIF keyboards like PopKey and Riffsy, which are compatible with SMS and popular apps like Facebook Messenger. GIFs are eating the world (or at least online communication) and Benton hopes GIF roulette will attract fans to Charge by making it even easier to share the little moving pictures.
“Searching and browsing for GIFs disrupts the natural flow of a conversation. And even when GIF-roulette brings back something wacky, that can often drive your conversations forward in different interesting directions,” he says.