Contxto – Mobile messaging startup, Bridgefy from Mexico had a busy 2019. Its app went viral in various places in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. The team at Bridgefy also launched a new product into the market.
However, to get the full scoop on the startup’s impact and upcoming plans, I hopped on the phone with one of its founders, Jorge Ríos. Based on our conversation, Bridegy’s busy 2019 offers some key takeaways for other startups as well.
Before diving in, a quick reminder, Bridgefy offers a messaging service that leverages a cellphone’s Bluetooth capabilities to offer internet-free messaging (kind of like WiFi-free WhatsApp).
However, earlier this year, this startup also completed and launched a software development kit (SDK) which other apps can combine with their own software to enable internet-free communication. From there, things began to move quickly for Bridgefy.
“2019 was a very interesting year for us. We launched our [SDK] product in April and ran some tests. But things got really interesting in August when the company went viral in Hong Kong.”
And he’s not wrong.
Jorge went on to explain that in Hong Kong alone, around 150,000 people downloaded the app as of the second half of the year. This also resulted in around 14,500 developers signing up on the website and integrating Bridgefy’s SDK into their mobile apps.
Then in October, there was an earthquake in Turkey which led to over 70,000 downloads. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, Bridgefy had 30,000 downloads in just three days in Lebanon, due to the ongoing protests in that country. Add in that in early November there were demonstrations in Bolivia where Bridgefy also became viral.
Its current numbers stand at a total of about 700,000 downloads.
When asked about how Bridgefy manages its retention rates, Jorge told me that following an initial download, people tend to hold onto the app because they realize things can go wrong (earthquakes, saturated internet connections, etc.). Consequently, they decide it’s better to hold onto Bridgefy‘s messaging service. People then also tend to recommend it to their friends.
Nonetheless, he didn’t provide details on their retention rate per se.
Bridgefy is currently working on improving encryption and security features for its communication app. Plus, it’s dedicating resources to making the app’s consumption of battery life more efficient.
At the moment, one-on-one communication using the app is private. However, Jorge told me that group chat messaging isn’t encrypted. Nevertheless, the team is developing a feature that will encrypt group chats to ensure there are no unwanted eavesdroppers in these private conversations. This feature should be available to the general public soon.
One of its goals for 2020 is to build a team focused on developing Internet of Things (IoT) tech to provide greater connectivity and data flows across institutions, communities, and even entire cities. Likewise, they seek to develop communication not only via cell phones but other devices as well and make it possible for Bridgefy’s products to leverage other protocols and antennas, besides Bluetooth.
The internet is a wonderful thing. However, as we delve further into tech, our dependency on WiFi also increases. This, of course, exposes us to greater reliance on it to solve everything. From getting a ride home via Uber, to making payment transactions.
In that sense, the rise of startups like Bridgefy and Locha Mesh that develop internet-free solutions is equally important. More so in emerging markets where infrastructure is less reliable—or where communication is crucial, but privacy is uncertain.
One of the biggest conclusions for Bridgefy as of its founding was understanding the importance of pivoting their offerings to other apps through its SDK. An important lesson any startup should consider.
As wonderful as one might believe a product or service is, in the end, the market calls the shots. Consequently, obtaining consistent feedback from parties outside a startup can provide invaluable insight as to whether pivoting is necessary.
Likewise, if a startup develops apps, managing a retention rate should also be a top-notch priority. How can you innovate and keep your users engaged? It’s just something to think about as you drive home or wait in line at the supermarket.
Or, as soon as you’re done reading this.