The rise and rise of a stupid app

August 25, 2014
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YO! Listen up. There is an app whose whole purpose is to send your friends two letters; YO and then you reply with your YO! or not. That’s it. Simple, and stupid. Apart from the developers, who would find any use for this Yo app? Apparently, two million other people who have downloaded the app since it went live in April across iOS and Android with roughly 50,000 active thousand users.

Yo creators successfully raised $1.5 million (Sh132M) in seed funding from, from among others Pete Cashmore – Mashable founder. This latest round of investment values the app at $10 million.

The app has attracted a fair share of detractors, who think Yo is more hype than substance and has been accused of “accelerating the decline of humanity.” In fact, Apple rejected the first request to publish on the grounds ‘it lacked substance’, according to WSJ.

And its not just third parties who are unsure about the app. Francisco-based Yo creators Or Arbel and Moshe Hogeg were embarrassed, (or forgot) to include the company name when publishing the app.

So what are investors seeing in this one-word instant messaging up?

Betaworks, one of the early investors, saw an opportunity in Yo, not just as an app but more so as a platform to build other applications on top of.

“We are fascinated by these uses of simple yes/no on/off communications tools. There is no payload in Yo – no pictures, no text, just a deceptively simple on/off state that over time has the potential to become a platform,” said John Borthwick, Betaworks chief executive, in a blog post.

John revealed Yo had become part of the office and personal communication where they alert each other when meetings are about to start. “I Yo with my wife as a hi during a busy day. I Yo with friends, without any more expectation or need than a Yo Back.”

But beyond interpersonal communications, the app is finding use in diverse and unlikely situations like the Israel-Palestine conflict.

RedAlert app – which provides warning of incoming mortars or missiles from Palestine – has integrated the app to send Yo messages to followers.

Yo’s alert and push notification system is what makes it more than app. Other applications can integrate on top of Yo to notify users and that’s what might drive usage more than anything else, according to Sangeet Choudary, director of Platform Thinking Labs.

A Mercedes-Benz campaign to introduce smart electric cars in San Francisco kicked off three days ago offering free rides to users who sends them a “Yo.”

In the words of Mercedes-Benz spokesman, Eric Angeloro. “We’re giving ‘Electricurious’ San Franciscans the world’s first-ever Yo-powered test ride.”

But since the launch in April, Yo has evolved and is adding more features including adding urls and voice. The tech community is watching closely the evolution of Yo and what it means for such apps. One thing is for sure, Yo is a lesson on keeping it simple and stupid.

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