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The latest tech startup to attract the interest of Hollywood actor-investor Ashton Kutcher? It’s Invi, a mobile messaging app based in Israel, which has pulled in a $3 million seed round today.
Invi got its start in April when founders Lior Gonnen and Iddo Tal [above, center] set out to develop a new way to bring “everything we love to share directly into the texting conversation,” Gonnen said.
Invi is focused on making the SMS texting experience a bit more interactive and visually appealing. If you’re so inclined, the Invi app for Android (and in the coming months, iOS) will even stream YouTube while texting. And if a friend sends you a news article via Invi, it will appear as a piece of interactive content — not a bland link.
Invi has clearly designed for the hyper-connected, multitasking generation — and inevitably, the millions of people who follow Kutcher (@aplusk) on Twitter. Gonnen describes it as a “full replacement for your native SMS.”
Invi initially had its own messaging service, but today it’s announced that it will support SMS messages on Android phones, a feature that users requested.
Now, you can text people who don’t use Invi at regular SMS rates and chat with other Invi fans for free over a Wi-Fi or cellular network.
Celebrity endorsement aside, one of the greatest challenges facing the team is customer acquisition — although the founders claim they have “several hundred thousand” using the app already. It’s a crowded space with players like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Investors include Horizon Ventures (the firm funded another Israeli startup at the early stage, Waze), UpWest, and unnamed Silicon Valley angels from tech giants like Google, Cisco, Nokia, Yahoo, and Spotify.
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