More coverage from our home country Luxembourg.
Thanks to "Le Jeudi" for the kind words and a special thanks to Marc Fassone for interviewing us!
The European smartphone user has an average of four messaging apps on their smartphone. So, when a new application of this type comes on the market, why should we give it any more attention than another in its sort?
Because it is Luxembourgish? Sure. But above all because - beyond an innovative user experience - it transcends the industry’s traditional ‘silo model’ and because it refuses to mine your data for marketing purposes like Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and others do.
A little history: Wafer Messenger was born out of on-going frustrations and disillusionment with the messaging apps on the market. While working at SES and having the opportunity to represent Luxembourg at a number of UN conferences, Simone La Torre (co-creator and CEO of Wafer), frequently had to communicate in large groups with numerous people from different countries. Here, he saw that a wide variety of people prefer to use different messaging apps and experienced first-hand the difficulties raised by different messaging apps’ inability to communicate with each other. This can be explained by the fact that big chat apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp or Viber are not willing to share their user base. Consequentially, none of them completely penetrate the market. In 2015, together with his friend Rob Llanes, co-creator and COO of Wafer, he started to think about an application that would break down these barriers. This application would allow the user to reach all their contacts, while also not limiting itself to being an interface for all other messaging platforms out there.
The first groundbreaking aspect of Wafer is its “Limitless Reach” feature. Even if your contact does not have Wafer downloaded, you can still communicate with one another. Wafer will create a secure link that you can send via SMS, other chat application and even email. As soon as the recipient opens the link, you can start chatting. And this works for VoIP calls too.
However, La Torre and Llanes did not want to leave it at that. From the get-go, creativity of the users was a priority. This led them to the creation of their second differentiating feature: “Endless Creativity”.
With this feature, you can combine sketch, text, stickers, photo, audio and videos all in one message. The stickers are made ‘in-house’, frequently renewed and of course, free. There is enough to satisfy even the most creative amongst us. As it looks different than the big messaging apps of the world, you would need a little bit of time to adapt; a small price to pay for an app that is both unrestricted in its communications and allows you to be incredibly creative. However, if this doesn’t determine Wafer’s success, a third element will. Ever since its creation, Wafer has refused to ‘milk’ their users for marketing and money-making purposes.
In fact, the monetization policy does not involve in-app purchases, data mining, the sale of personal data or targeted advertisements. Even Wafer’s own developers do not have access to the user’s message, which means that the user’s privacy is ensured at all costs.
Instead, the strategy – once Wafer has a large enough user base – is to provide services that bring “an added value in the user’s communicative life” say Stan Debruyn, Press and Media Coordinator and Niels Hoorelbeke, Marketing and Event Strategist. The idea is to offer different services, a bit like WeChat does in China, which gives access to various gaming, payment and reservation services, and to take a small fee from them. The company is actively working on associations with game publishers, streaming services and payment services.
The company – recognised as the start-up of the week by Forbes – employs 10 people in Luxembourg, Washington DC and New Delhi. Wafer is currently in the process of closing a third investment round: after raising 940.000 euros, the company is currently looking for 3 million euros at a valuation of 20 million euro. For the moment, investors are (mostly) Luxembourg-based individuals. This is in itself atypical as these kind of projects generally attract venture capitalists.
Since the app became available to the public on the Apple and Android App Stores in September 2017, Wafer has been downloaded more than 500.000 times, boasts 250.000 likes on Facebook and has more than 150.000 active users. Wafer has already known some success in India, Brazil, the Maghreb countries, Italy, the UK and the Benelux. Wafer’s headquarters are in Luxembourg and the Benelux is the company’s ‘home court’: the app is available in French, Dutch and also Luxembourgish (among other languages). “It is our way to thank the country for all the support it has given us so far. In 2016, we met Xavier Bettel’s team at the Lisbon Web Summit. They immediately mobilized and helped us out.”