Poncho, the text/email-based weather service with personality, has today launched an iOS app that acts as an alarm clock to wake you up.
Poncho launched out of betaworks in 2013 with a very simple premise: deliver the weather in a way that makes sense to the user.
Instead of launching a fancy-shmancy weather app, the team launched a text and email service where the ‘Weather Cat’ would deliver the news.
“We wanted it to feel like you were friends with the weatherman, who happened to send you a personalized text each day with the right information,” said Sam Mandel, CEO at Poncho and partner at betaworks.
Ten full-time writers participate each week in a few meetings, which are akin to the traditional comedy sitcom writers’ room meeting, where they come up with fun pop culture references and discuss ideas for the forecast copy.
The Poncho back-end clusters together zip codes where the weather feels the same, taking into account not just temperature but wind speed, chance of rain, and other factors to deliver accurate weather in the most fun way possible. This allows Poncho to cover every zip code in the United States.
Given that Poncho came out of the same umbrella as Giphy, most of Poncho’s weather forecasts included a fun gif with some jazzy copy about today’s weather.
Users could set the time they wanted to receive a text or email about the weather based on their daily schedules. For example, you could ask for the weather in the morning before you go to work, around lunchtime when you head out for some grub or to walk the dog, and in the evening for when you’re ready to go out and get hammered.
Over time, however, Poncho realized that it was acting as an alarm clock for users without ever building an app.
“We found most people were waking up with Poncho anyway,” said Mandel.
And so was born the Poncho app.
The forecast for the Poncho app is the same as the email and text forecast, but the app adds special alarm clock functionality via push notifications.
After the user sets the alarm, Poncho will send a push notification with an abridged version of the forecast right on the homescreen, complete with specially composed music which is personalized based on your weather. In another act of betaworks brotherly love, the Poncho team tapped the same composers that create the music for Dots, another betaworks brand.
Poncho didn’t disclose user numbers, but given that it’s the one truly differentiated product in the weather space, it’s easy to imagine that the two-year-old company continues to grow its user base.
Which presents some very interesting opportunities.
With real market penetration, Poncho could feasibly start offering native advertising for various products based on the weather. We’ve already seen some integrations on the email and text service with companies like Seamless on particularly rainy days, encouraging users to stay in and order lunch.
As part of the launch, Poncho is partnering with GE to include information around energy conservation and clean energy production based on the weather. For example, on a super windy day, Poncho might include the fact that today’s wind (when put through GE’s wind turbines) could produce enough power to light up the Grammys.
Poncho has built a specific section of the app for sponsored content, but the Poncho writers are tasked with coming up with the copy.
The alarm clock itself also offers an opportunity to make money. Users could pay extra to customize their music, or up-and-coming artists could pay to have their new song featured as a wake-up tune.
But Mandel says the most important thing is continuing to build that friendly relationship with the user, and that will remain central to any future moves toward monetization.
The Poncho app is available here on iOS and coming soon to Android.