Startups

No More Texting? Yolk.fm raises $1.25M for text-free social app to make messaging fun and engaging

Ever since Friedhelm Hillebrand invented short message service (SMS) four decades ago, text messages have become essential parts of our everyday lives, with people habitually checking their mobile phones frequently and almost immediately. Globally, about 23 billion text messages are sent every day.

In the United States, adults send a staggering 18 billion texts daily, whether at home, while driving, at work, or even during movie sessions. This translates to a whopping 541 billion texts per month and an astonishing 6.5 trillion texts annually. It’s these staggering numbers that have spurred a tech startup on a mission to bid farewell to traditional text messaging.

Most messaging platforms follow a familiar script: text-based conversations peppered with emojis, GIFs, and reactions designed to add a touch of flair. But every so often, a new contender emerges, challenging the established norms where others have failed.

Enter Yolk.fm, a social app created by Singapore-based startup Drigmo. The social app lets your face do the talking instead of sending text messages. Yolk came to life because the creators believe in injecting more playfulness and authenticity into our digital interactions. They saw a gap in the market for unconventional apps that push the boundaries with advanced AI technology.

Yolk.fm has just secured $1.25 million in a pre-seed funding round, with Forge Ventures leading the investment. Other contributors include Sequoia’s Scout Fund, as well as partners and investors from DST Global and Temasek. Additionally, a consortium of angel investors, including founders and CEOs from prominent companies such as Carro, Carousell, Tableall, and Locofy.ai, also joined in the funding.

The founders, Walraven, Zihui Chen, and Meiwin Fu, are former Google employees with prior experience in the social app realm. They previously launched an app called Drigmo, enabling users to bookmark restaurants they plan to visit, share recommendations, and showcase their food orders.

Pieter-Paul Walraven, one of the co-founders and self-proclaimed “chief scrambler” of Yolk, revealed to Tech in Asia that the team stumbled upon the live sticker format by chance. They observed a glitch in Apple’s on-device segmentation and parsing technology, intended for creating photo cutouts, but instead generated a looping one-second video.

“When someone in our co-working space approached us and inquired about the app we were using, we realized, why not turn this bug into an app?” he added.

Yolk.fm takes a bold departure from traditional messaging apps by tossing out a key component: texting itself. Instead, it embraces a more playful approach to communication, entirely centered around stickers.

But these aren’t your average stickers from WhatsApp or iMessage. Yolk.fm takes it up a notch with three AI models built into the app. These models let you point your camera at anything and instantly turn it into a sticker. Whether it’s your pet, a delicious slice of pizza, or even the iconic Empire State Building, the possibilities are endless.

To get started, you’ll need to invite three friends because, let’s face it, social apps are no fun without friends. Once you’ve got your crew, you can start chatting by snapping photos of whatever catches your eye and turning them into live stickers. Your friends can respond with their own stickers, which will then show up on your profile. And if you’re feeling a bit mischievous, you can even “sticker-bomb” other people’s profiles.

Social media is a tough nut to crack, especially with our ever-shortening attention spans. The folks behind Yolk.fm get this and are hoping to carve out their own space in the market by expanding to different platforms and working with influencers to attract users.

Will Yolk.fm be the messaging app that finally succeeds where others have failed? Only time will tell. But one thing’s for certain – they’re going to have a blast trying.


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