French startup ten ten finds viral success and controversy in reinventing walkie-talkies

Less than one yr after its iOS launch, French startup ten ten has gone viral with a walkie-talkie app that enables teenagers to ship voice messages to their shut buddies — even when their cellphone is locked. 

Whether you assume that’s a recipe for catastrophe or the good factor you’ve heard could rely in your age group, and youths clearly heard of that one lengthy earlier than we did; though walkie talkies are clearly not a brand new idea, even in app type. Ten ten is doing the identical, however in 2024.

“We’re ephemeral by design,” ten ten co-founder and CEO, Jule Comar mentioned in a written interview with TechCrunch. He added that In CB codes, 1010 means “Transmission accomplished, standing by.” According to Comar, this is only one of “a number of meanings that align with our values and the idea.” It appears to be resonating; the app is free and rapidly climbing rankings.

Ten ten’s sudden rise is especially noticeable in France, the place it has been downloaded 1 million instances. Including on Android, the place it grew to become obtainable just a few weeks in the past, the app noticed 6 million downloads since its launch, in line with information shared by market intelligence agency Sensor Tower with TechCrunch on Friday. 

The idea might additionally obtain tweaks alongside the best way. The present UX suggests a 9-friend cap, however that’s not the case. “Ten ten is for shut buddies however there’s no pal restrict, we’re seeing folks share their PINs on social media so we’re engaged on a greater pal administration system,” Comar mentioned.

The PINs Comar is referring to are the IDs that customers can use to seek out one another. The app additionally asks for entry to the consumer’s contacts (however no one will get added with out consumer motion.) There’s inherent virality on this mannequin, however that’s not the one progress driver; TikTok “performed an necessary function,” Comar mentioned.

ten ten screenshots 2024
Image Credits: ten ten

Ten ten’s obtain numbers have undoubtedly stored on rising throughout the weekend: ten ten has been all around the French media recently. Not at all times with a optimistic spin; French newspaper Le Figaro, as an illustration, known as it “worrying.” “I used to be very shocked,” Comar mentioned. “There’s nothing “harmful” about ten ten!”

It’s not simply articles trying on the app in a unfavorable gentle; there may be additionally faux information circulating, Comar mentioned. “There have been some rumors going round that we have been a Chinese app due to the title “ten ten” and we received wrongly accused of “spying” and “stealing information”…”

Ten ten will not be Chinese, although. The firm has been duly registered in France, since 2021, which means it is usually topic to GDPR. Its present phrases and circumstances are formulaic, however point out that the crew is within the means of writing higher ones. More importantly, the startup’s privateness coverage is adamant about two factors:

  • All your conversations are ephemeral, we are able to’t take heed to your dialog as we don’t even retailer them!
  • We won’t ever promote your information!!

Besides that call to not promote information, it’s unclear how ten ten will earn money. “We have a number of cool concepts on how we might monetize at a later level,” Comar mentioned. There’s little doubt that their present success will purchase them time — and assist them safe enterprise capital to get to that later level.

Asked if his startup already had or was within the means of elevating funding, Comar replied affirmatively. But, he added with a smiley, “we are able to’t actually disclose how a lot and [from] whom but.”

In response to TechCrunch, French VC Hugo Amsellem indicated that though his agency Intuition isn’t one among these backers, he sees ten ten as half of a bigger development amongst French startups. 

For Amsellem, the frequent thread is that “France is king at standing sport performs.” Individuals are in search of to extend their social standing, and French entrepreneurs are joyful to assist, whether or not that’s on the software program facet BeReal, Yubo or Zenly, or on the {hardware} facet with luxurious gadgets. 

It stays to be seen how lengthy ten ten can retain its cool issue, however its CEO is conscious that its present place is each privileged and fragile. Comar mentioned:

It’s exhilarating, it’s a sense that’s laborious to explain however that just a few fortunate ones have felt, it seems like all the pieces goes so quick and so gradual on the identical time, adrenaline blended with satisfaction, gratitude and tasks, you are feeling massive and small on the identical time — You can solely really feel this in shopper social, as a result of it might hit you if you least anticipate it and there’s no ceiling. But now we have to maintain our heads on our shoulders, it’s only the start, the toughest is but to return.

Comar and ten ten co-founder and CTO Antoine Baché have been sleeping little or no recently. A smiley-ridden e mail auto-reply warns that they’re “having points with our servers because of an enormous variety of customers on the identical time,”  and “engaged on it day and night time to repair it as soon as and for all.”

Server pains apart, a generational hole is one hurdle that ten ten should navigate well. More than privateness, it’s typically the truth that ten ten is utilized by teenagers and in school rooms that’s being mentioned. “When you learn these articles it seems like they’re speaking about some form of new drug going round at school!” Comar mentioned.  

It’s simple to see why lecturers have been the primary adults to note the app. Since ten ten can bypass a lock display to play a message out loud, it may be used for pranks and create small disruptions in school rooms. But having to show cellphone hygiene isn’t new, and youngsters are savvy sufficient to determine it out, too.

In a French subreddit for lecturers, a dialogue occurred as as to whether members had had any issues with ten ten in school rooms. One participant famous that there had been “no main incidents to this point” regardless of the app “getting a number of consideration” at their college. But, that particular person added, “I ask the scholars to place their telephones on airplane mode.” (We haven’t reached out to confirm that this particular person is a instructor, however their profile appears to substantiate it’s the case.)

Instead of beginning a brand new ethical panic, maybe ten ten might be a chance for fogeys to marvel at the truth that a few of our favourite cultural artifacts are making a comeback; whether or not that’s cassettes, Dungeons & Dragons, or now, walkie talkies.

There’s just one small step from out of date to classic, and the success of ‘Stranger Things‘ doubtless helped. But app-based walkie talkies would get no precise traction if there was no actual use case round them. Comar thinks there may be, and that’s what impressed him.

“I’ve at all times had a gaggle of shut buddies, we discuss on a regular basis on a number of mediums, however I felt like all of them had some form of friction,” he mentioned. “I wished us to have the ability to talk like if we have been at all times below the identical roof, like roommates: you simply pop of their room if you need to say one thing, if their door is closed you knock, if it’s open you simply discuss!”

Hopefully for ten ten, mother and father will see the worth in that as nicely. Who is aware of, perhaps they will use it to say out loud that dinner is prepared. That is, if their teen accepts them as a contact.

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