Mobile messaging app Just.me auctioned off its assets late last year, pre-traction, in order to get out from under its $1.5 million in venture debt. But Just.me, founded by Keith Teare (who also co-founded TechCrunch), won the auction itself using funds from Teare’s incubator Archimedes Labs, beating out nearly two dozen other bids. Now the company is revealing its next move: a series of messaging apps built using the Just.me platform and assets two years in the making, starting with Chance, a private messaging app that connects users with strangers.
Revealed first in the December 31st iTunes App Store release notes for the original Just.me, the company, now a fully fledged app development studio (Just.me, Inc.), is transforming Just.me’s underpinnings into Chance and other apps. Teare explains that Chance is only the first of many apps to be spun out from the original Just.me, all of which will combine the various features of mobile messaging in different ways.
Messaging apps can be public or private, with users who can be anonymous or named, and having conversations in groups or one-on-one, Teare says. The new Just.me, Inc. will experiment with these ideas in standalone apps, the first of which is Chance, an app built in a month’s time. A second app is likely only a few months away, he adds.
With Chance, users are connected with random strangers from around the world, allowing you to chat, exchange disappearing pictures and texts. If you see someone you’d like to get to know, you can begin a conversation, otherwise, you simply tap “Next.” (Yes, it’s very Chatroulette.) As Teare explained earlier, public expression was something that had seen the most usage in Just.me, which had led the company to adding features like “confessions,” which could be anonymous.
To protect users against the unwanted elements bound to surface in any anonymous communication service (e.g. pictures of body parts, requests for pictures of body parts, etc.), users self-police the community by blocking others. (Though not identified by name, the software can track a user account, even when the app is deleted and then reinstalled). When a user is blocked five times, they’re banned for 24 hours. And when they’re banned for 24 hours three times, they’re banned forever.
Additionally, shared images are blurred, and you have to first tap on the image to reveal its content – a way to allow users to avoid unwanted photos. The hope is that all this will make users feel comfortable using anonymous chatting, something which services like Chatroulette struggled with in the past.
In its later days, Just.me had already been heading in this direction. Its user base had shifted to nearly 70% female, ages 15 to 25, with males 19-30 accounting for the remaining 30%. And anonymous “confessions” in Just.me were gaining in popularity. “My feeling is that if you can build an app that women like that has all these characteristics of being public, then you’ve really figured something out,” says Teare. The hope is that Chance will offer users a similar feeling of privacy and protection thanks to its feature set. But to be safe, the app is rated 17+ on iTunes.
Going forward, the Just.me founding team, Teare and designer Alex Komarov will continue to iterate on the original Just.me concept, while trying to find product-market fit with various app releases, all of which are now much less costly to run. With the platform built, the assets in hand, and only the two of them full-time, Teare says the cost to run Chance is now $5,000/month, versus the $250,000/month Just.me required.
In addition, the company is actively raising money on AngelList. Previous investors Google Ventures, True Ventures, and other individuals are shareholders in the new company, which has raised $200,000 so far.