Let’s face facts: Snapchat rules the photo-messaging market – for now, at least.
But this is where James Burton and Chat Real come in.
“The idea came to me when I was sending 200 Snapchats a day, [and] at the time Snapchat had become my main form of communication. Snapchat is an awesome way to communicate: using photos with text gives a much richer communication experience than traditional texting apps. But it doesn’t allow for group messaging or for people to have a lasting conversation. So I found that I was constantly switching back to Facebook Messenger but wanting the Snapchat experience of photos, so I thought, ‘why not combine the two to make a photo messenger?’”
Conversations in the new app are known as “Reals,” like old film reels from cameras. Every photo makes up a frame in the “real,” and with the app it’s possible to have a group conversation – unlike Snapchat. Also unlike Snapchat, photos with Chat Real last forever.
The app is free, Burton explains, and has a target market of 14 to 25-year-olds. Besides Burton, the key people are tech advisor/mentor Scott Judson (with whom Burton recently sold out of Cloud House) and investment/business advisor Greg Sitters. The company is based in Auckland – which Burton says is the perfect fit.
“I don’t want to move over to LA to do it. I want to stay in Auckland.”
With plans to launch in mid- to late-May in the Apple App Store, Burton says the key for Chat Real is seeing if it catches on with consumers.
“It is something that hasn’t really been done in New Zealand,” he explains.
“We are going after users first, at a global scale. Our goal is to grow our user base for the next three years and trial a number of different paths to monetisation over that time. In New Zealand nobody has really tried a network effect growth plan. I kind of like to think we are breaking new ground.”
If there’s anything to be learned from recent history, it’s that apps can come and go almost as quickly as the tide, but Burton says he isn’t deterred.
“Next we are building up our team, and starting to rapidly iterate the product to suit our users,” he says.
“There’s some sweet tasks in the pipeline for us right now. We are looking forward to developing the product even more. It’s been a lot of fun.”