Apparently, there’s still money to be made in text messaging. ReplyBuy, a startup launching today that uses text messaging to deliver Groupon-like daily deals, is a perfect example of just how much life the technology has left.
Backed by a number of former YouTube employees, ReplyBuy lets users sign up to receive text messages for daily deals with partner merchants. ReplyBuy users can also text back to purchase the deal, after signing up and saving their payment information on the company’s site. It operates in the same space as Groupon in the sense that users have to purchase the product through ReplyBuy, rather than use the text message as a flat discount and buy from the vendor.
That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m also a fan of the (really) little guy. Today that’s Zaid Farooqui, a fellow Tar Heel over at UNC-Chapel Hill that’s been working on a text message coupon startup for a little more than a year. BlinkCoupons lets students at UNC and Chapel Hill residents sign up to receive text message alerts for coupons at local restaurants and stores. Right now BlinkCoupons is partnered with the Daily Tar Heel, the university paper for Chapel Hill. It’s also moving into other papers as well, Farooqui said.
So here we have a tale of two startups. One startup is launching today that is backed by prominent investors. One startup is run by a young student still in school. The generational divide there is pretty telling: texting is still as popular and has as much potential as it has always had. It’s particularly popular in a time-robbed generation filled with early adopters and tech-savvy folks looking for the latest deal (like myself).
Granted, smartphone sales are crashing the mobile phone party at an alarmingly increasing rate. The smartphone market grew 95 percent last quarter when compared to the same quarter a year earlier, when 80.9 million new smartphones shipped. And there are plenty of new options outside of text messaging for smartphones — like Kik, a personal favorite of mine. But amidst the multitude of ways to communicate on smartphones, texting remains the one standard that every phone, no matter how dumb or smart, can support.
The logical extension of that is to bring e-commerce into the equation. I know I used my fair share of BlinkCoupons while I was a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. I’ve been craving a service like that for some time now in San Francisco. I can only hope that this is a sign to come with startups like BlinkCoupons and ReplyBuy making their moves across the country.