On Tuesday, seed fund and startup accelerator 500 Startups is announcing a batch of seven SMS and voice-focused applications selected to its Twilio Fund. Each is being awarded $10,000 in funding; one will receive an additional $50,000 and a spot in the accelerator program.
The new Twilio Fund startups — WorkersNow, Callyo, Magnolia Prime, FastCall411, Volta, Qwipd and knockknock — run the gamut from extremely useful to nearly inappropriate.
Tipping in the direction of the super useful is Magnolia Prime, which delivers voice messages to elderly patients, as configured by the patient’s clinician or caregiver. Callyo, also quite practical, aims to offer multifaceted crisis, emergency and tip line options for police departments.
knockknock, targeted at businesses and consumers, routes phone systems to put consumers in touch with the customer service reps at the companies they want to speak with. FastCall411 aims to be the aide of the local salesman with call recording, analytics and lead scoring, while Volta serves as an A/B testing framework for outbound phone calls. And WorkersNow expedites the hiring process around contract construction gigs.
Less practical, but more fun is applying Twilio’s texting capabilities to the sexting fancies of teens and young adults. Qwipd, for instance, can be used to convey flirtatious, albeit controlled, text messages with choose-your-own-ending flavor.
In September, 500 Startups cooked up the Twilio Fund as a $250,000 micro-fund to finance the best applications built on top of Twilio’s SMS and voice platform. Ten startups later — three others were selected in December — the fund is now nearly full and replete with several bold ideas in mobile communicates.
500 Startups may have found a low-cost way to buy into the next big platform. Twilio, as a communications platform, is pumping out hit apps left and right — there are some 20,000 plus Twilio apps, GroupMe being one of the more prominent ones.
History also tells us that these platform-dependent funds are a safe, and potentially lucrative bet. Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers iFund, which finances iPhone and iPad app development, seemed like an odd gamble at first, but has since gone on to produce GOGII (TextPlus), Shazam, Booyah, Shopkick and Flipboard.