What a difference a year can make. It was almost a year ago to the day that Rob was interviewing Caleb Elston, co-founder and CEO of Yobongo, a new mobile group messaging app set to launch at SXSW. Yesterday, on the eve of this year’s SXSW, Yobongo announced that it had been acquired by photo-book creation service Mixbook. Yobongo will shut down and its six employees will form Mixbook’s new mobile team.
While sad, it’s hard to say that this news is surprising. Just before his interview with Caleb, Rob had written an editorial predicting the impending consolidation of group messaging apps following Facebook’s acquisition of Beluga. Here’s what he said then:
I’m pretty sure this is a sign of things to come as it would seem to me that chat as a business is, well, not a business but a piece of a bigger business. The acquisition of Beluga is a perfect fit simply because Facebook can take that product and put it into the hands of the over 250 million people that use Facebook from a mobile device. Beluga goes from a niche product to the largest group messaging platform in mobile overnight.
So how do these guys make money? Anyone? Both Fast Society and GroupMe have each raised over $10 million to help build out their platforms – surely the investors are looking for suitors for both these companies. You can’t really jam the apps up with banner ads and you need to keep the spammers out. So the real opportunities lie in complementing someone else’s product – just like the Facebook/Beluga relationship.
It’s hard not to watch the UNTETHER.tv interview with Caleb and think of all the hopeful startups launching at this year’s SXSW. Will they still be around a year from now, or are they simply a feature in someone else’s product?