Mobile

Yobongo launches chat app — a tech fix for shy nerds?

Caleb ElstonA new startup called Yobongo is giving users their first chance today to get their hands on its mobile chat application, which helps you to find strangers nearby and start talking to them.

The company was created by two employees from livestreaming service Justin.tv — vice president of products Caleb Elston (pictured) and software engineer David Kasper — who left the company back in October to work on Yobongo full-time. Here’s how they describe the app:

Yobongo is a fun new way to chat with people around you. It’s a place for authentic conversations with people who are physically nearby, whom you might not know yet. There are many services focused on the people you know. We’re interested in helping you connect with people you might not.

Using Yobongo is simple. Open the app and you’re instantly chatting with real people nearby. Find someone really interesting? Start a private conversation. Yobongo is there for you when you have a few minutes waiting in line at the coffee shop, hanging out around campus, enjoying a concert — any time you want to connect with real people. Yobongo is serendipitous conversations.

I haven’t been able to try the app myself (like I said, today’s private beta test is really the first release to the public), and Elston told me that it’s too early to even share screenshots. The idea of random conversations based on real-world location is compelling, but I’m also struggling to figure out when I would use it in my daily life. Is it a way for shy nerds (like me!) to avoid real conversations? Is it supposed to lead to real-world meet-ups?

yobongo homepageElston said it’s designed for both brief chats and longer conversations but that he’s hoping people who enjoy chatting through the app will want to meet in-person. He added that, behind the scenes, Yobongo is automatically creating chat rooms based on distance, the amount of conversation, and other factors.

The San Francisco startup is now accepting invite requests at its website, but VentureBeat readers will get priority if they sign up here. Yobongo is currently available for Apple’s iOS devices only, although Elston said he plans to move to other platforms too.

When I asked about whether Yobongo has raised any venture funding, Elston said there was “nothing we can announce yet.”


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