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Originally published October 15, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 15, 2007 at 2:02 AM



Texting simplifies group messages

A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week:

What:, Bellingham.

Who: Derek Johnson, 22, CEO.

Mission: To revolutionize how people communicate with groups through the use of text messages, by offering the ability to send a single message to a group of infinite size.

Broadcast news: A group leader creates a series of contacts; after the contacts accept an invitation to the group, the leader can send a message to the whole distribution list from their computer. This avoids repeatedly typing the same message to different people or getting bogged down in the forwarding process.

Family tree: There is no peer-to-peer messaging, and a mass message can't be sent from a phone. If a group member wants to broadcast messages, another group must be created.

Employees: Two, with three more about to come on board. All are college students and none are slackers. "It's taken a really long time to build the right team," Johnson said. "We take it very seriously, and not very many people are able to step up to the plate."

The text generation: "The people we are targeting are kids. So the people we are hiring are kids. I'm a kid. I know what works well. This is better than making phone calls, which takes three minutes for each one. This is better than e-mails, which ties you to your computer.

"Text messaging is silent communication, and most students carry their cellphones 100 percent of the time."

Financials: The private company doesn't share its numbers. Service is free, with the expected "text-message costs still apply" caveat.

Johnson said the company will make money from tag-line ads, opt-in programs and, down the road, kickbacks from the cellular companies.

Here, he admits, "We will need to get a lot bigger before we can see any money from this."

Textual healing: Johnson believes the product does something unique, and hopes he is on the way to creating "the Yahoo or Gmail of text messaging." He reports an enthusiastic response so far: Since its Sept. 17 rollout, the service has attracted 5,000 users split into 500 groups.


"We have every kind of group," Johnson said. "From a military reserve unit that uses it to call its members into action, to frat houses who are telling their members what's for dinner."

On the Web:

— Charles Bermant

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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