Spokane Journal of Business

Business text app developer to ramp up

Spokane startup receives capital infusion, looks to increase its presence

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Spokane-based startup Business Texter Inc., which has developed a mobile application for sending and receiving texts in large quantities, has received a fresh infusion of capital and is ramping up its operations.

Company co-founder and CEO Aaron Rollins says the company received more than $250,000 in angel investments from Kalispell, Mont.-based Frontier Angel Fund and a few other investor groups earlier this month.

"This is going to let us expand and promote," says Rollins, who started working full time at Business Texter last week, leaving his position in business development at Spokane Valley-based information technology company Interlink Advantage Inc.

Rollins declines to disclose revenues or the startup's projected break-even point, though he says the company is generating revenue. The Business Texter app currently has 1,500 users and has been used to send more than 600,000 texts, Rollins says. With the ramp-up, the company projects the number of users to grow to between 12,000 and 15,000 by year-end, he says.

Business Texter is an Android-only app—the company hasn't developed a version that works with Apple Inc.'s operating system yet—and typically is being used by businesses to correspond via text with consumers. The app can be used to send bulk texts to consenting customers, Rollins says, and it can be programmed to answer common customer questions via text.

The company uses what's called a "freemium" model, where it doesn't charge to download the app or for usage up to 1,000 texts a month. Beyond that volume, customers pay a monthly fee based on the number of texts sent. The rates are tiered, starting at $9.95 for up to 2,000 texts in a month and ranging up to $499.95 for unlimited texts.

Rollins says that largest share of Business Texter's users currently are small- and medium-sized businesses in the restaurant and entertainment industries. For example, concert promoters use it to alert fans about newly booked concerts, ticket sales, and venue promotions. Restaurants use it to make patrons aware of new menu items and daily specials.

Here, Rollins says, the city of Spokane uses Business Texter to alert citizens about snow plow schedules. He says the city started a pilot program using the app last year, and more than 500 people signed up to receive the alerts within the first three days of the program.

Rollins owns Business Texter with David Johnston, of Spokane, who serves as the company's chief technology officer and also operates Optimization Tutor Inc., which offers search-engine optimization and helps with online advertising.

In addition to Rollins and Johnston, Business Texter employs a programmer who lives in Connecticut and works with subcontractors around the world, including specialists in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Pakistan.

"It's very much a 2013-style company, located here and leveraging assets all over the world," Rollins says.

The company plans, however, to hire two people in Spokane by the end of this year, a customer service/sales agent and another programmer, he says.

Business Texter currently doesn't have a dedicated office space, but it's looking into leasing space in the coming weeks. Rollins says he's looking at startup space in one of Spokane building owner Steve Salvatori's entrepreneurial centers.

The plans to promote Business Texter more heavily come about three years after Johnston first developed the app's technology. Johnston had created another app, called the 1 Touch Love You app, for texting affectionate messages to others. He had found that he was inundated with questions about the app from users and spent a considerable amount of time responding to inquiries.

To lighten that load, he developed an app in which he could preprogram answers to common questions. When a text comes in with a specific question or keywords about a subject, the app would send an automatic response.

"Now we have phones running the Business Texter app that answer 1,000 texts per day using auto-reply features, with no human interaction," Johnston says in a press release. "The cost and time savings along with customer-service improvements are amazing."

Rollins says the upside for the Business Texter app is far greater than for the Love You app it was created to support initially, something they realized soon after starting to use it.

"That was definitely an epiphany," he says.

Linn Parish
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Deputy Editor Linn Parish has worked for the Journal of Business for a total of 10 years, dating back to 1998. A self-described sports nerd, Linn has worked as a professional writer/editor for nearly 20 years.

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