Alan Braverman co-founded Yammer, the social-network-styled workflow management system for businesses that Microsoft purchased in 2012 for $1.2 billion. So, the Silicon Valley veteran knows a thing or two about building a startup that pans out.
And if you're a Vine, Snapchat or Yo early adopter who likes the sound of your own voice, you may believe Braverman is onto something again with Sobo, a "social soundboard" in his words. The app debuts today for iPhone and iPad users, enabling them to record six-second voice messages via their device mic and then send them to friends and followers. We all know about threads via Twitter, Facebook, message boards, text and email. So, how about sound-bite threads?
"Our beta-testers use it to shout out 'happy birthday' to somebody or brag about where they are at or going," Braverman said. "If they are at a [San Francisco] 49ers game, for instance, you can hear the crowd around them in the sound bite."
In recent months, Baverman's start-up studio, The Giant Pixel, has also launched Antenna, another short-form audio app. Both that app and Sobo face two key challenges: changing consumer behavior and having voice-recognition software that fulfills the promise of the experience. Another hurdle is competition from similar apps like WeChat Voice. But the concept behind Sobo and Antenna seems fresh and could reap profits if the product features catch on.
Braverman said his six-second message format wasn't intended to mirror Vine's video length, but he acknowledged the similarity could help his startup's cause. After all, people are more apt to try something new if it reminds them of something else they already do.
"We started at six [seconds], and figured maybe we'd change it later," he said. "But then we just never did. There was never anything scientific behind it, to tell you the truth. We just said, 'Let's see what people can do with it.'"
To bolster downloads, Braverman plans to buy Facebook ads. The rest of the marketing plan is in development.
He admits to being encouraged by the recent success of ultra-simple app Yo, and believes there's plenty of room for marketers on Sobo if he can build an audience. Braverman envisions "sponsored sound bites" that could become the advertising audio cousin to Promoted Tweets on Twitter.
And while there has been no attempt to get a celebrity to promote the platform, as Ashton Kutcher did for Twitter a few years ago, maybe Braverman's team could coax comedians to test jokes—even if they are only of the knock-knock variety due to the six-second limitation—on his digital creation.
"We have thought a lot about audio consumption via smartphones," he said. "Some of us are big fans of podcasts, and we recognize that podcasts are not super successful as a medium. Part of our theory is that ... they are sometimes just plain too long."