Mobile messaging is growing like a weed. But it’s not just teens sending stickers, emoticons, and LOLs that have made the category among the hottest anywhere in the tech sector. Businesses are increasingly relying on new digital messaging solutions to carry out their day-to-day tasks.
In secure and regulated enterprise environments, like the medical, financial, and defense sectors, TigerText has emerged as the leading solution. Today, the company took a major step in introducing its next-generation product and updating its business model to support a freemium use case.
TigerText has grown to serve several thousand businesses and several million unique users on its platform, all of which have paid to use its product to date. But to grow this paid customer number to 100,000, the company has realized that it may also have to give away 10 times that many free licenses. It’s a strategy that worked wonders for Yammer and other “consumerization of enterprise” success stories, the majority of which have what is known as a bottom-up customer acquisition model.
Under this model, a single employee can sign up for TigerText for free, add their business, and start securely texting from their mobile device (iOS and Android) or the Web. Enterprise administrators can then decide if they want to pay for more advanced encryption, compliance, data archiving, and organizational management features available in the pro version of the software. Previously, the company only offered a two-week trial before users had to choose whether to pay for access to the service or lose access.
“Over-the-top messaging is quickly replacing SMS as the most popular communication channel for consumers,” says TigerText co-founder and CEO Brad Brooks. “Enterprises are now hopping on this trend and demanding secure, yet efficient OTT communication channels for their workers.”
As evidence of this trend, the company reported that its paying users quadrupled in the first half of this year, largely driven by an increase in adoption in the healthcare category. Since soft-launching its freemium version eight weeks ago, the company has added another 500,000 users across 10,000 organizations, it reported today.
The Pro version of the app supports employee productivity tracking through collecting read and delivered status, as well as average message response times. Administrators can also enforce the use of PIN locks, remote wipe data or de-provision network access, and dictate message lifespans after which data is automatically deleted from the device and server archives, a feature the company calls “self-cleansing.”
TigerText also integrates with Box and Dropbox to enable the sharing and storage of large files through its platform. In this way, the platform can be viewed as a replacement not only for SMS and consumer mobile chat solutions but for enterprise collaboration platforms like Yammer and Salesforce’s Chatter.
With the new version of TigerText, the company is blending its business-centric solution with more consumer-focused features. For example, users have the option to create multiple distinct environments within TigerText, meaning personal and business conversations, as well as contacts for each, can be kept separate, while still living within the same app. Under such a setup, administrators only have access to and control of the communication sent within the in-app work environment. Your messages to your wife and kids remain separate and beyond their reach.
It’s not immediately clear why a consumer would need to send their personal messages through a secure channel, but in an age where new NSA surveillance measures are revealed daily, perhaps this is a naive question to ponder. Users can message recipients without a TigerText account by sending a secure message link via SMS.
A large driver of the company’s recent growth has been the confluence of major technology trends, Brooks says. TigerText benefits from the proliferation of smartphones and more specifically the BYOD (bring your own device) trend in the enterprise, as well as the emerging use of SMS communication in the workplace, and the increasing need to secure enterprise data in the cloud.
Brooks believes that the newly announced freemium model will spur growth in a number of new industries and within the types of small and mid-sized (SMB) organizations that his sales team couldn’t target previously. The company is taking other measures to drive growth, including signing channel partnerships with several large telecoms and technology resellers. Finally, the company recently introduced TigerConnect, an API that allows third-party platforms to integrate TigerText’s messaging solution. Whisper, the wildly popular anonymous social network – which was actually incubated within TigerText and counts Brooks as a co-founder – was among the first to utilize this API, reporting a 140 percent increase in engagement as a result.
Santa Monica-based TigerText, which has 60 employees currently, has raised $10.1 million to date across two rounds of funding. The company’s backers include Easton Capital and New Science Ventures, as well as several angel investors. The three-year-old company has made major inroads into the enterprise and today took a big step toward extending that dominance through increasing its appeal to the rank-and-file employee.
But this growth strategy introduces a new set of problems, namely that of serving two masters. TigerText runs the risk of falling short of expectations for both the consumer and the enterprise administrator, by virtue of trying to appeal to the other. It’s unlikely that TigerText will ever offer as compelling a consumer solution as dedicated products like WeChat or Line, but it will remain differentiated by virtue of its security features. In the enterprise, admins may be leery of an app that allows their employees to also send personal messages, for fear of simple confusion leading to unintended security breaches.
Brooks and his team appear confident in their abilities to navigate these dangerous waters. The good news is that the company could not be in a better category at a better time, as the demand for messaging solutions is at an all-time high among both consumers and enterprises.