When news came out back in June of an app that did nothing more than allow users to send push notifications simply saying “Yo!”, people shrugged. There’s an app for everything after all. When it emerged a number of days later that the app had managed to somehow raise funding to the tune of $1 million, they stood up and took notice. How could such a novelty generate such a large amount of funding so soon? Talk of a new internet bubble ensued. Since then, Yo! has been valued at $10 million and, what seemed like the joke of the tech world just a few weeks ago, doesn’t seem so funny now.
It seems that there is more than meets the eye to this concept at least and, while it sounds like a gimmick, those investors weren’t handing over their hard earned cash for nothing. They obviously see some potential presumably around the commercial possibilities of contextual notifications.
While at the moment the app is extremely one dimensional, Yo’s creator Or Arbel argues that it’s all about context. This is where the commercial angle comes in. Arbel highlights the potential examples of Starbucks sending users a Yo! when their coffee is ready, or an airline sending a Yo! to let you know that your visitor’s plane has landed on time or that your package has arrived etc.
I think the most exciting thing about this concept is that it may be able to democratise the humble push notification. At the moment, you can only receive push notifications from apps that you have downloaded (no shit!). But there is surely potential out there for a platform that let’s users receive notifications from organisations when they need certain real-time information without negotiating the mobile web or downloading a new app for each new use case.
Let’s use the package delivery example from above ; I might use DHL once or twice a year for example. Not much point in downloading their app to track my parcel for a service I use so infrequently and which will take up valuable screen real-estate on my mobile. But if I give them my Yo! username, hey presto, I’ll get a quick notification as soon as my package arrives at it’s destination. Similarly, I arrive at a bus stop heading into town. Not one of those fancy new bus stops with a nice screen telling me when the next bus is due, just a plain old regular one. I send a Yo! to the bus stop and it tells me that my bus will be there in 3 minutes. Lovely.
With any platform, building an initial critical mass of users is crucial to it’s success and Yo! seems to be well on it’s way to doing this, mainly due to it’s novelty at the moment but that’s beside the point. That’s not to say that another app can’t come along and steal it’s thunder, but just that Yo! is well placed to take advantage of this area at the moment. The use cases are there, there’s no doubt about that.
There is also some pretty cool potential around ‘push commands’ in the whole Internet of Things space. Imagine sending a Yo! or whatever it might be to your home security system to activate your alarm etc. There’s a lot of players in this area doing pretty sophisticated things like Nest and Smart Things to name but two, but this is more towards the high-end of the market and will work best with your whole house locked in to their ecosystem. A push command system using a Yo! like platform might offer some more open sourced opportunities in the Internet of Things space.
Either way, while the current Yo! app might be a bit of a laughing stock, and rightly so, I believe there is definitely some potential out there in a platform that breathes new life into the plain old push notification.