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A Conversation With Channels

I talked with Jake Price, a senior in the business school about his startup, Channels, an innovative group messaging app. Below is our conversation:

 

1. Tell me about Channels.

Channels is a mobile app for iOS and Android that enables groups to share disappearing and permanent photos and videos. The disappearing photos and videos, called Moments, allow you to share your personal life with the groups that matter to you – friends, a pledge class, a sports team or any other group. Moments are a great way to share the funny and embarrassing things that happen to you, your crazy nights out and just about anything else throughout your day – since they disappear, you can send practically anything. You can attach a message to each photo and video Moment, and every recipient sees that message before they open the photo or video. This redesigns the group chat, first showing messages, and then showing the accompanying photo or video. You can easily respond to a Moment with another Moment.
The permanent photos and videos, called Memories, montage together into a shared group story – like an iCloud shared album, but better. Memories are all about the things that make you smile and laugh, what’s important to you and your group, and those times you’ll want to remember a year from now (or in five). Everyone in a group can share photos and videos, attach a message to their content, and view the shared story, picking it up from any point. Memories are ideal for when groups are together and they want to capture their events and lives.

 

2. What clued you into the need for this application? Any personal experiences or witnessing others’ problems?

We had one huge observation: groups aren’t nearly as cohesive as they could be. This is largely because a lot of photo and video content is missing from existing group chats. This is of course a problem, because while text is about logistics, media is what really connects us with people. Photos and videos allow groups to share their experiences and everyday moments – what really brings them closer together.
We realized photo and video content goes missing because people don’t have the choice of making them permanent or disappearing. Everything is permanent, so group members feel anxious in this group-sharing context. You have to ask yourself “Is this photo actually funny? Is this video worth sharing?” We even saw people retake the same photo four or five times or type out a message, delete it, and then retype it a few times. This anxiety inevitably leads to missing photos and videos and to less content and less group interaction. This all leads to less group cohesion, which is of course, bad for groups and their chemistry. The real goal behind Channels is to bring groups together – and we believe the first step is to make sharing media easier.

 

3. How does your business work? Who runs what? Does income come through ad revenue or elsewhere?

The business was co-founded by Jake Price (CEO) and Max Brenner (COO). Price is a senior at Wash U, while Brenner is a sophomore. Andrew Moeckel and Jared Korotzer, both juniors at Wash U, serve as the lead software engineers for the iOS and Android apps.

Price and Brenner are responsible for the overall strategy of the company, as well as the application’s functionality and design, the rollout and growth strategies for the application and crafting the monetization strategy. They each specialize in a variety of other areas.

With regards to monetization, it will come from ad revenue, among other sources. We don’t want to talk too much about that for now.

 

4. How does the process of programming an app work?

It started with us drafting a proposal for the application. This included our desired functionality, wireframes, a basic design idea and other key pieces of information. We then put that proposal out for bid on UpWork.com, a website that connects freelancers with people with ideas. We received over 60 bids on our proposal and analyzed them based on their experience, education, past projects, reviews, price point, etc.

After selecting a group of four to program the application, they started work on both the front-end (what the user sees) and the backend (the servers that hold data). Moeckel and Korotzer will be taking over the development soon, working on all future iterations of the app.

 

5. Do you see Channels becoming a successful app?

Yes. There’s a hole in the marketplace and we’ve determined that people want a platform to fill that hole. That’s a great recipe for success. At this point, we’re excited for our rollout and to see what our initial growth looks like.

 

6. When and where can I find Channels?

We’re looking at a launch in early 2017 – probably about halfway through the second semester of school. We’ll know more based on our beta test, which will be starting before winter break.

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