While email has long ago settled in, messaging is still growing. Today, Boston-based InMoji announced it has scored $1 million so it can connect consumers to brands through messaging.
Founded last year, the startup offers clickable icons — called InMoji — that live in a message and can connect you to, say, an offer from Nike.
“Brands get to interact with their customers, [while] customers get to curate and arbitrate their brand interaction and share great content with their friends,” CEO and cofounder Michael Africk told VentureBeat via email.
Consumers are already looking for emoji — small and expressive digital icons — and stickers to send within their messages, he said, so InMoji is just another kind of personalized add-on.
“We are discoverable in the same part of the apps where all other content is found,” he said. “Users click on a [smiley-face-like] icon and are taken to the InMoji experience.”
Africk told us the experience could include “video or audio content discovery, links to exclusive one-time offers, or tools that simplify their messaging and communication process.” Consumers can use the InMoji to send music or movie clips, have coffee or gifts shipped, or convey location information.
He noted that brands — such as current clients Walmart, DraftKings, and Sol Republic — can structure their campaigns as advertising, affiliate marketing, sponsorship, or loyalty programs. Either the sender or the receiver can click on the icon to be taken to the experience.
Brands pay InMoji for access to the messaging providers, since they provide access to the consumers and receive part of the revenue. InMoji, for either Android or iOS, are designed to integrate with “almost any messaging app,” the company said, including social networking, gaming, and dating.
The new seed funding, from ex-Paypal Media COO David Chang with participation from Paypal’s Start Tank, Atlas Venture, and other investors, will be used by the company for product design and development, sales and marketing, and operations.
COO Perry Tell told us that InMoji sees itself as “the next gen of monetization on messaging platforms,” offering an opt-in kind of brand promotion.
“While there are no direct competitors doing exactly what we do,” he said, “there are some blurred lines with some sticker companies.”
Sticker companies similarly “license content and distribute via content stores operated by the apps,” Tell noted, and they “have revenue shares with the content licensors, making this a low margin business.”
He compared the current environment to the mobile wallpaper business of the early 2000s, which later dried up. But InMoji, he noted, has “direct relationships with brands and [creates] custom media experiences which track real-time data, similar to display ads or other online digital media units.”
Messaging apps and some of the larger adtech platform could compete, he added, but “so far it has not been done.”