Thingthing takes $400k to show a productiveness keyboard app right into a providers platform
Messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat have turn out to be the platform giants of current years, scaling large consumer bases powered by the momentum of community results. However may there be one other location on the smartphone that’s potent sufficient for an app to rework into a platform in its personal proper? Barcelona-based mostly startup Thingthing reckons there’s. And their guess is that it’s the Qwerty keys that stay beneath smartphone customers’ fingertips that might be the subsequent massive factor on cellular.
Thingthing has constructed an iOS keyboard app targeted on amping up consumer productiveness by reducing the quantity of app switching customers need to do by loading productiveness-targeted further performance into the keyboard — simply faucet on one of many command keys above the Qwerty keys to summon your digital camera roll, or a stack of trending GIFs, or an inventory of your current Dropbox information, or a multi-day view of your calendar, and so forth. The choose slice of knowledge is displayed in the place the place the keyboard was simply earlier than you hit the icon.
Third celebration accounts that may be linked to Thingthing’s keyboard at this level embrace Dropbox, Field, Google Drive, Fb, Instagram, Flickr, Pocket and Todoist. The app can be related to your telephone’s digital camera roll and calendar. And naturally, as have to be the case for any self-respecting keyboard app, there’s an icon to shortcut to your emoji — and emoji recommendations constructed into the keyboard’s subsequent phrase prediction tech.
With linked third get together apps/providers Thingthing is plugging into the related APIs to help the actual performance being provided — reminiscent of, for instance, the power to view and share information out of your Google Drive. It’s additionally considering rather a lot about designing the choices it provides customers. It’s not pulling every part into such a tiny area; simply what it thinks somebody with one thing to sort shortly actually must see/seize. Plante dubs these “contextual actions”.
Examples embrace the power to pick and paste a photograph into the message you’re typing. Or to pick and ship a number of potential calendar dates. The core concept right here is to permit the consumer to achieve swifter entry to info siloed away in a 3rd celebration service in the intervening time they’re tapping out a message — and while not having to faucet away to that different app — to hurry up associated communications, whether or not somebody is making an attempt to rearrange a gathering by way of e mail. Or chatting with associates on WhatsApp.
A number of faucets on the Thingthing keyboard and you may seize the proper calendar dates or hearth a photograph proper into your chat while not having to faucet away from no matter messaging app you have been utilizing.
What’s actually fascinating right here is that the keyboard cuts throughout totally different providers, and may subsequently act because the connective tissue linking a number of providers — eliminating the necessity for customers to go to one other app instantly for easy use-instances (like grabbing a file).
And whereas a keyboard won’t seem, at first move, to have the huge community pull of a social or messaging big, there’s a transparent sub-set of professional-customers who will respect the instant productiveness positive aspects within the brief time period. And probably a wider viewers past that — if much more compelling brief-cuts could be loaded proper into the keyboard in future, as Thingthing is hinting can be its path of journey.
Thingthing is immediately saying it’s closed a €350,000 ($400k) seed spherical, led by Simile Enterprise Companions. Different buyers within the spherical embrace Saatchinvest, Pioneers Ventures, Seedcamp (with the staff having lately gone by means of their winter bootcamp program), plus some enterprise angels.
It’s additionally speaking about having secured partnerships with “main manufacturers” — though it’s not specifying precisely who or what these partnerships entail at this level. Extra particulars can be shared on this within the coming yr, co-founder and CEO Olivier Plante tells TechCrunch. An Android model of the keyboard can also be within the works.
“They’ve seen the chance in a keyboard being a platform,” says Plante of Thingthing’s buyers. “Being one thing transversal in all places, that may present far more than simply productiveness instruments.”
Commenting on the funding in a press release, Tatiana Kim, managing companion at Simile Enterprise Companions added: “Cellular has turn into the first channel of communication and messaging is a vital a part of our consumer expertise. Thingthing is tackling an issue of effectivity in customers interplay in a novel and clever means. We respect that the workforce is concentrated on consumer-centered design, has clear imaginative and prescient of improvement technique and ambition for international protection.”
Of the six model partnerships Plante says that some are “leaders in productiveness” and others are “leaders in providers”.
“We’re engaged on one thing the place the imaginative and prescient is ‘simply sort’ — so the place individuals solely sort and whereas they’re typing they will entry different providers,” he continues. “That is one thing that we name contextual info. So relying on the context you possibly can entry providers that transcend simply productiveness.”
“Fb is making an attempt to do one thing round messaging round these strains however we consider that the keyboard is extending every little thing,” he provides.
TechCrunch final coated Thingthing again in September, quickly after it had launched the primary model of its app — which didn’t initially embrace an precise Qwerty keyboard, requiring customers to toggle to make use of the native iOS keyboard (or one other keyboard app of their selection). On the time we lauded the clear design and the power of the core concept.
Since then the quite giant lacking piece that has been locked down by Thingthing is an precise keyboard of its personal, with the workforce constructing subsequent phrase prediction tech (at present only for English), and utilizing public knowledge sources akin to Twitter and Reddit to coach its studying algorithms, in response to Plante.
“We constructed our personal keyboard, with our personal algorithms,” he says. “We constructed that from scratch. And on the velocity we’re going we’re on the degree the place — SwiftKey did one thing in eight years, we will do what SwiftKey did in about three years and a half.
“The algorithm was constructed by our CTO who has been doing work round machine studying and AI. He was capable of in reverse to what SwiftKey has constructed — as a result of SwiftKey wants your knowledge to be actually clever, so the extra your join issues the extra it’s clever, we have been capable of create a machine studying AI from public knowledge.”
At this early stage Plante says Thingthing has round 20,000 month-to-month lively customers. “Individuals have typed lots of phrases!” he provides, estimating it at between three to 4 million phrases at this level. “That is an aggregated knowledge. Pure analytics. We don’t see any phrases, we simply infer.”
A compact, three-day on-display calendar view is a brand new function in the newest replace to the app, plugging in a helpful, at-a-look overview of your availability for the present and two following days. Flick a finger again or forth to return in time to examine the place you have been, or scroll additional into the longer term week. Need to recommend three attainable appointment slots for a gathering? Faucet on the occasions on the related day/s after which hit the switch button that pops up on the backside nook as slots are chosen and the graphical knowledge wings into the message you have been typing — however now in textual content type, specifying the day, date, time and timezone. Really pleasant design.
Thingthing might be working subsequent on methods to simplifying sharing group assembly information by way of the calendar, based on Plante. “We’re going to create experiences which might be fixing complicated issues. Not life threatening issues however issues that assist. And the place Thingthing turns into the hub of every little thing — you are able to do a lot extra stuff with this,” he provides.
With third celebration keyboard apps there can in fact be very sizable privateness considerations, given how a lot knowledge a consumer is probably handing over to an outdoors entity when they comply with grant them ‘full entry’. And Thingthing can also be asking for entry to a raft of further providers — so there are probably massively magnified privateness considerations right here. And Plante is aware of it. Which is why he stresses “privateness by design” as a core precept for the staff, noting, for instance, that ThingThing shops all knowledge referring to customers regionally, on their system (within the shell app), not on its servers.
That stated, no matter further knowledge partnerships Thingthing is cooking as much as energy its future providers push might, inevitably, conflict with a privateness first ethos. Or at very least open up some recent privateness considerations, relying on the entities which might be being plugged into the keyboard and the way Thingthing goes about informing customers concerning the privateness commerce-offs they may be making as they sort.
“We don’t depend on your personal knowledge for now, and if we depend on it sooner or later it’s as a result of there’s actually a purpose for it — it is going to be higher for you as a consumer,” is how Plante squares this future circle.