TextPlus to go global this summer, trumpets millions of dollars in monthly revenues
Communications app textPlus plans to take its voice and messaging offering global sometime this summer, company executives said. The company, which offers service in the United States and Canada, is currently testing its offering in various locations across the world, and it expects to launch globally between June and August.
The launch will represent a major step forward for a company that already generates a "solid seven-figure monthly revenue" from its voice and messaging service. Scott Lahman, textPlus' founder and CEO, explained that the textPlus app is unique in the mobile voice calling and messaging space because its users are able to connect with anyone with a phone number--not just other smartphone users who have the textPlus app. Lahman said textPlus' service connects to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), thus giving textPlus users their own textPlus phone number, which allows its users to communicate with anyone else. Other messaging apps like Viber and WhatsApp do not connect to the PSTN, and customers can only communicate with other users of the same service.
Lahman said textPlus generates revenues from advertising in its app, as well as from charging users to place "off network" voice calls, which are calls to users who don't have the textPlus app. Lahman said textPlus allows users to send text messages for free to anyone, regardless of whether they have the app, but off-network voice calls typically cost 1-2 cents per minute.
Interestingly, textPlus users can accrue free calling credits by interacting with advertising in the textPlus app, like watching a movie trailer.
Lahman said textPlus' revenues are split relatively evenly between advertising income and off-network calling fees. Venture-financed TextPlus has been profitable, but it is currently in "deficit financing" in order to fund its global launch.
Lahman described textPlus as a "cloud carrier, a new kind of MVNO, if you will." He said the company has recorded a total of 45 million application downloads since it first launched its app in 2009. The company initially offered only messaging options but added voice calling services in 2011. Lahman said textPlus has maintained its PSTN connections since the company, which counts 100 employees, was founded in 2008. He said maintaining that PSTN connection is complex and difficult, and is "where we put the bulk of our energies."
Alongside its global launch, textPlus plans to continue to offer "value-added services" inside its app. Such services include allowing customers to purchase emoticons for insertion into their messages, for example, or purchasing customized phone numbers. Lahman said the sale of these services is "ancillary" to textPlus' core sources of revenue: advertising and off-network calling.
Further, textPlus is also in discussions with wireless operators in an effort to form partnerships. Already textPlus has an agreement with U.S. MVNO FreedomPop to power the operator's planning voice calling and messaging service.
"We're looking at all sorts of partnerships" with wireless carriers, explained Austin Murray, textPlus' founder and president. Murray said that some carriers view over-the-top (OTT) messaging services like textPlus as competitors that are eating into mobile operators' voice and messaging revenues, but Murray countered that textPlus is helping to expand carriers' addressable market by giving devices like iPads and iPod touches a phone number that people can call. "We bring them (wireless carriers) value," Murray argued.