Two IIT Delhi computer science students, Abhishek Gupta and Saurabh Kumar have created a chat system that allows you to find random people based on your interests. Unlike competitors like Omegle, Zumbl.com aims to match people with rooms containing folks who tend to like the same things and share interests.
“During my first year at college, someone introduced me to Omegle.com while I was looking for portals to chat with strangers. It required you to talk profanely or switch on your webcam or pretend to be an American girl to strike a conversation. As an experiment, I started working with two friends on a facebook application to let users chat meaningfully,” said Gupta. “Since then, we have pivoted in small ways according to the user feedback, highly inspired by the ideas of a Lean Startup.”
The most striking reason to why they thought this would work was the huge potential market they could target. They decided they had two options – work on something that sells faster, or work on something that is going to be the next Facebook. They chose the later. Players in similar markets boast a huge user base – IMVU has about 100 million registered users, WhatsApp has about 250 million active users.
Zumbl boasts of a very diverse team ranging from technical aficionados to design ninjas to marketing analysts. Each member of the team adds a unique color to Zumbl. Their tech stars Deependra (18) and Abhishek (18) are the youngest and led by their co-founder Saurabh (19). Chaitali (BITS Goa) looks after Marketing and Communication, while Shinja designed the new avatars. Saurav (IIT KGP), Betsy (Toronto) and Neyaz are working on the front end.
Zumbl is committed to providing the best experience to Zumblrs (A term coined by their users to show their love for the site). Following the lean startup ideology, they constantly take feedback from their users, work on the suggestions and iterate every second week with major changes. They launched the latest version on 20th June where they introduced the following new features:
- Exciting new range of avatars
- New Groups so that users can chose who they want to talk to. Example Entrepreneurs, Music Lovers
- They also launched a new feature ‘Choose what you want to talk about’. Now the users can put their own specific topics and interested users can reply to those topics and get into a conversation. So far ‘Spirituality’ has been the topic most talked about.
On Zumbl , the ‘avatars’ have not only increase the aesthetic value but they also have a utility value to them. The avatars symbolize the kind of impression you make on the other users you chat with. Cool, isn’t it? They always believed each of their user is unique and hence they always made efforts to make Zumbl customized differently for each of their user. They are soon going to launch an exciting new range of Avatars.
Zumbl also has a strong layer of moderation. Soon after launching the site they realized that some users might indulge in unwanted behavior that may hamper the culture they are trying to build on Zumbl. Thus they designed a simple yet effective moderation system. Their top users whose behavior on Zumbl have been commendable and worthy of praise are made the moderators. These moderators use their best judgement to take actions in cases of reports made on the site.
Thus far folks have been pretty nice on the site. Because you can up or downvote users and add tags to folks who are less than savory, the team has found that the tone of the chats has been solidly nice.
“Zumbl has been able to maintain the culture,” said Gupta. He hopes it stands up to the onslaught of users as the site scales up.
“We are going a step further from Facebook Graph Search where we not only give people the ability to search for other people of their choice but also, a way to contact them,” said Gupta.
Zumbl presently has around 45,000 active users from 188 countries, 1 million chats and 45 million exchanges on site. It is seeing over 450,000 messages per day in 15,000 chats. These are some amazing numbers considering the fact that they launched just 6 months back (came out of beta). Zumbl is adding a new user every 90 seconds with every chat session starting every 10 seconds, reads the ticker on their site . Also, over 3,000 new topics requests have been answered in last five their days of the launch of the feature – ‘Choose what you want to talk about’. Looks like people love getting together with people who share similar interests.
Obviously this kind of scale requires some amount of investment. So far they have raised $20,000 from Kunal Bahl, CEO at Snapdeal, and $20,000 in 2012 from the Digital Media Zone. Team Zumbl hopes to raise about a million dollar round around September which they plan to spend on scaling the platform and expanding the team. They recently launched native mobile apps for both iOS and Android.
So can Zumbl bring about the next revolution in instant messaging? There’s definitely a long road ahead, especially when the likes of Facebook are trying to dominate the instant messaging space, but the team at Zumbl are very positive about it and hope to reach a million users by the end of June next year.