Comic-book hero Dick Tracy’s coolest gadget was his watch, which he used as a walkie-talkie to quickly chat with his friends and fellow police. Israeli start-up Glide thinks that’s nothing compared to what their technology will do.
Glide cofounder and CTO Jonathan Caras, an American-born Jerusalemite with a yarmulke and a beard, already has a cooler, more functional watch than Dick Tracy’s on his wrist. It is a prototype Shenzen smartwatch, complete with touchscreen and camera, and Caras uses it to send video messages to his three-year-old son, who is sick at home.
“One of the things we’re excited about is where messaging goes when you take away the keyboard,” he said.
Glide, a company Caras cofounded with Ari Roisman and Adam Korbl, certainly believes that wearable technology and smartwatches are the next big thing. But they are not waiting for them to go mainstream. Instead, they are already looking to upend the world of text messaging by replacing it with quick, seamless and easy video messages.
One of the reasons texting is so popular is that it’s fast, Caras says.
“If the ping-pong of the video is more than the range of six to eight seconds, the conversation will stop until later on,” said Arie Offner, Glide’s head of strategic partnerships.
In WhatsApp, for example, users open their camera, record a message, hit a few buttons to attach the saved video clip and wait for it to upload.
Once all that’s done, the person on the other end starts to download it and then can watch it. In the fastpaced messaging world, all that time spent waiting kills the usefulness of video chatting.
What makes Glide, available on IOS and Android, different than sending videos through Whatsapp or iMessage is that it starts streaming the videos the moment recording starts, creating a seamless chatting experience.
One friend can watch the video before their other friend has even finished recording, meaning that there is hardly any waiting time between video chats. When chat-mates are busy, they can simply put away their phones and watch the video later.
The search for that convenience is what led Caras, Roisman and Korbl, all immigrants to Israel, to found the company in the first place. With family members spread out across a slew of time zones, setting up appointments to Skype was burdensome.
“Even though Skype and Facetime are wonderful in terms of staying in touch with someone, they’re really burdensome in terms of time commitment,” Caras said. “To try to get all of us in three different time zones all over the world on a synchronized call is nearly impossible.”
Now, his family just shares videos on their Glide group instead.
Waking up one morning, Caras found a whole string of 20 video messages his family members had sent over 12 hours, which he played as a continuous strip. It began with his mother in Florida saying she dreamed that his very pregnant sister had gone into labor. His sister, in St. Louis, replied that she was fine and about to do yoga. In the next video, she announced that her water had indeed broken, and she was on the way to the hospital. By the last video in the series, she was introducing everyone in the group to her new baby.
“I watched over breakfast 12 hours of story, and it ends with my sister holding this little baby,” Caras said.
All that video, stored conveniently on the cloud so it doesn’t fill up people’s device memories, is easily sharable.
There are no privacy restrictions, however, which means that in an age of sexting and revenge porn, personal videos could easily be made public.
Users always have the option of deleting their videos from the cloud if they don’t want anyone to share them, Caras says.
The company already has more than 10 million US users, who have sent over 500 million videos. On New Year’s Eve alone, at least 500,000 people shared videos at midnight.
The technology has also become an unexpected hit in the deaf community, where sending video messages in sign language can be easier and quicker than typing out texts.
Making video messaging quick, easy and user friendly helped Glide raise $20 million in B-round funding in December, a feat that is all the more remarkable given that they do not yet have a business model.
Whether they end up charging for premium features, inserting ads or just selling their technology to a bigger company, they are confident the tech will be popular enough to turn a profit, especially as smartwatches come into vogue.
“We believe we are in a very good position to become one of the most important apps on the smartwatch,” Offner said.
While the biggest disruptor in that space will likely be the Apple Watch, due this year, that device does not have a front-facing camera. Glide expects that future generations of the Apple Watch will.