Media & Entertainment

Loji wants to make it easier to arrange plans with friends in iMessage

Comment

Image Credits:

Over the last few years messaging apps have developed from SMS-like services with a few extra features into platforms that are almost like internet portals. Kakao, LINE and — most notably — WeChat are examples where users can buy products, read news, pay money or more inside the app.

Over in the U.S. market, however, iMessage is the dominant messaging service and, while Apple has taken steps to advance the sophistication of its service, it seriously lags its Asian competitors when it comes to being a platform. The iMessage App Store, introduced just over six months ago, was seen as a way to level the field, but it hasn’t panned out how Apple may have expected. Sticker apps rather than utilities have been the dominant players, but overall growth has slowed significantly as developers — and users — lose interest.

That’s where a new startup — Loji — is aiming to make a difference.

Loji, which is competing in the Battlefield competition at TechCrunch Disrupt New York, wants to bring much-used information and snippets of the web into iMessage conversations without forcing users to leave the app. The service was founded last year and is available as an iMessage app. It uses interactive brand logos, which can be added into chat conversations where they appear as interactive thumbnails.

“I like to think we’re doing what iMessage apps are intended to be,” Loji CEO and founder Kathryn Harper said in an interview. “It’s an example of how a brand can customize and extend into messaging.”

So, for example, rather than opening the Yelp or Foursquare app to find a restaurant, Loji users can simply navigate into the app from within iMessage, pick their restaurant destination and share it with a friend. All without leaving the app. Additions not already in the database can be added by users — Loji pulls data from Google Places to quickly fill out their details.

 

The brand logos themselves function like an information hub. Beyond the location data — or map — for a destination, they include a listing of a company’s social media presence — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Periscope — any ongoing offers, the option to hail an Uber or Lyft to get there and, for some like Starbucks, a direct link to order/buy/shop. There’s also an option to promote a chatbot.

Harper explained that a brand’s Loji page is entirely customizable. The database itself is extended by user-driven additions, but brands can jump in at any time and take control of their presence. Today, she announced that Red Bull has done just that after it agreed it a partnership that will allow it full control of its presence which, beyond drinks, spans the New York Red Bulls soccer team and the Red Bull Studios in New York. Red Bull’s Loji page will also promote its Facebook Messenger chatbot.

Using Loji, Harper said, Red Bull can interact with fans by adding value to conversations.

“Connecting meaningfully through chat is uncharted waters,” she said.

 

Alongside Red Bull, Loji said it has agreed to similar deals with other undisclosed “tier-one brands.” Harper declined to say whether these deals included a financial component, but brands are the the company’s monetization efforts. Harper explained that revenue-generation approaches included premium placement of logos inside the iMessage app and branded content. The company is also considering app-to-app linking and services around data analytics, too.

Right now, Loji’s team of six is fully focused on the iOS experience, but it is also developing a Messenger app experience. For now, there’s no immediate plan to develop an Android version — Android users can currently receive Loji content — but the upcoming Messenger app will expand its reach to non-iOS devices, which will allow other users on to the platform.

The company previously raised an undisclosed round of seed funding to get started, and Harper said she is looking at raising the next seed round to advance the business now that brands are coming aboard as partners.

More TechCrunch

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads. Designed as an independent appeals board that hears cases and then makes precedent-setting content…

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI to remove ChatGPT’s Scarlett Johansson-like voice

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine