Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Photo: Robyn Twoney for Newsweek
If you have a mobile with internet access and you live anywhere in the world - this is for you!
heysan! is a new mobile instant messaging service created by Hyper Island Crew 6's Pär and Gustaf together with Business Developer Marie Brattberg and Developer and Information Architect Michael Ossareh. We were curious about how the idea turned into a business and what heysan! see coming in the mobile industry.
We got in touch with Gustaf to find out more;
How did the four of you meet?
Me and Pelle were both in Crew 6 at Hyper Island and that's where we met. After we gradutated Pelle went to Uppsala and I left for London and New York to work. While at another company in New York my new CEO asked me to find a great programmer and the best programmer I could think of was Pelle. Pelle knew Marie who was also in computer science at Uppsala and she also joined same summer. Late last year all three of us left that company for different reasons but after a while got together again and decided to form heysan. We needed another developer and Michael who I'd worked with in London joined too. They are all awesome.
How did you come up with the idea of heysan?
In essence the idea of heysan is to give people mobile instant messaging, like MSN, AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo and ICQ on your mobile phone - for free!
If you send an SMS message today that cost around 5000% more than if you the same message of a mobile data connection, like mobile web. Most forms of messaging, like email or SMS for example are moving towards being more direct and syncronous. The user interfaces are starting to reflect that, for example Gmail was built to be more like IM than e-mail, because that's how you naturally use it. The SMS interface on the new iPhone looks like iChat. That's not a coincidence, but it will be very expensive when people start sending IM over SMS since you send many more IM's.
We saw a company online called Meebo.com doing a really excellent job by providing easy web-access to MSN, AIM, Gtalk etc and we were thinking, "We should do this on mobile phones", and give it out for free.
That's what we're doing and the response have been pretty crazy - we're getting way more sign ups for our beta program than we can handle - and really from all over the world. For the first time in my life I'm interacting with truly passionate users and that's an awesome feeling.
The company was founded in January 2007 and that's when we got our investment from a seed-fund called Y Combinator. Y Combinator is a program for young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. When we got accepted we moved out to San Francisco and have been there since (on and off). Product-wise we started working in December but in the beginning development is much slower since you have to think about everything you are developing before doing it. Adding features to a existing product is much easier.
Y Combinator reminded us a lot about Hyper Island, it's built on the same DIY principles. If you want to build something, don't write a business plan, just go out a build it - and that's what we did. We've met with a lot investors and so far none has asked for a business plan.
We are lucky to share office space with Twitter, another mobile company that literally exploded in the last couple of months. Started by the same person who did Blogger (which this blog is hosted on)..:)
Has the pre-launch attracted the expected target group?
Yes, we've gotten a lot more signups than we can invite today. Y Combinator and heysan! were featured in Newsweek last week which drove a huge amount of signups. We weren't really prepared for that but it feels great having thousands of people being interested in what you're doing.
What trends do you see coming in the mobile industry?
Everything that improves communication between people has the best chance of succeeding. There are more camera-phones than digital phones in the world, but we've only seen a fraction of the applications that can be built on that. Same with location. If done right (like loopt) it will be huge, as well as advertising, but only if it's done right (like admob). The ratio of time vs. money being spent on mobile advertising compared to traditional media is like 1/100. That's called inefficiency.
Everyone in the industry is waiting for a true viral hit, like Hotmail or YouTube being replicated on mobile. If it doesn't happen this year, it will happens next year, I'm almost certain. After that, this industry will fundamentally change.
Do you have any tips for those who want to work with mobile services?
I actually think Hyper Island did a great job to prepare us, not because of the mobile aspect but because it gives you a self-esteem, kind of "I can do this now". I think you should stay away from schools and companies that don't foster people into taking their daily lives in their own hands. Hyper Island sent me to Hong Kong and New York before I turned 22, I was nervous as hell but there were few things in my professional life that seemed much harder after doing that.
Other good advice, never work for a mobile operator. They are part of yesterdays legacy. Innovation will happen elsewhere.
Finally - When does the full version of heysan! launch?
Very soon, we're working day and night now. If you sign up for the beta chances are you don't have to wait for the launch. ;)
Thank you Gustaf and heysan!