HELSINKI, Finland — Oskari “Ozz” Häkkinen, founder of Futurefly, knows what you’re thinking as soon as you hear that his company is working on a new messaging app:
Uh, does the world really need one more messaging app?
Fair question, and one Häkkinen answers in the affirmative. Messaging apps are the most-used apps on people’s smartphones, and many people use four or five. So the goal is not to defeat WhatsApp, Facebook’s Messenger, or any of the other 800 billion messaging apps.
Häkkinen just needs Futurefly’s app (whose name is still under wraps) to be one of your five messaging apps.
Still, to even reach that modest goal, Futurefly will need something to stand out from the crowd, and some features that can’t be found on the other leading apps. What will those be?
So far, Futurefly hasn’t been saying too much about it. But Häkkinen is a gaming veteran, having left Remedy Entertainment to start Futurefly. The company is not building a gaming app, but a messaging app with game-like mechanics such as avatars that can be manipulated and used to communicate and express, much like they were characters in a video game.
This app, due to debut some time early in 2016, is also designed to test a concept.
“The bigger vision is to innovate the consumer app space by bringing game mechanics front and center to experience,” Häkkinen said.
That vision has caught the attention of some notable early investors. Back in September, the company announced it had raised $2.5 million from a string of investors that include the European VC firm Vision+ and Tekes, the Finnish fund for technology and innovation.
During the mega-conference Slush in Helsinki last week, Futurefly also revealed that several other investors had joined the round, including Broadway Video Ventures and NYC-based Betaworks.
The total round is now $3 million, and also includes private investment directly from Nokia chairman Risto Siilasmaa, gaming executive Keith Boesky, and Arielle Zuckerberg, sister to you-know who. Zuckerberg made her investment personally before recently joining Kleiner Perkins.
And she made that call despite the fact that her brother’s company has two messaging services — WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger — that have more than 1.5 billion users combined.
So, what do Zuckerberg and her co-investors see in Futurefly?
Häkkinen said he believes the company has something unique and entertaining, key components to helping an app climb the mountain of user acquisition. How other apps gained users, such as Snapchat, is something that has become a bit of obsession for him, and was one of the key motivations for leaving Remedy and starting his own company.
In the case of Futurefly, Häkkinen said the company’s app will appeal to brands and celebrities, and that’s a big part of the reason they chose strategic partners such as Broadway Video Ventures.