Launch Mode: CloudTalk Finds Its Voice

Web entrepreneur David Hayden dreams beyond text

Most tech entrepreneurs are motivated by fame, power, and (not least) dreams of enormous wealth. With CloudTalk, serial entrepreneur David Hayden has a much grander ambition—to save humanity.

Like several new group messaging services that have emerged this year, CloudTalk’s app allows users to send text and images to sets of friends. But the fact that CloudTalk puts voice at the center of its service, in an era when texting threatens to eradicate the phone call, is what makes it potentially revolutionary—and society-saving, argues Hayden, who founded the 1990s search engine Magellan.

"It is a basic requirement of a human being to talk," Hayden says. "Hearing someone's voice, that is core to who we are." It's certainly core to CloudTalk. The product is designed to allow people to talk to each other—just not live. You can use CloudTalk to send someone a voice message or a series of voice messages, which they can return at their leisure. "An asynchronous conversation," explains Hayden, is far better than a bunch of bland texts. While the app may eventually carry ads, the company has also introduced a partnership platform that will see CloudTalk power other services and applications.

That business may hold the most growth potential since the fledgling app claims only 40,000 users. "I don't see exactly where brands can find an interest [right now]," says Alexandre Mars, CEO of Publicis' mobile agency Phonevalley. "There is no scale."

And mobile experts aren’t certain there will be. "The challenge is on the consumer adoption side," adds Chia Chen, mobile practice lead at Digitas. "They have a really romantic notion, but if you look at how people use their phones now, it's a lot more about utility and texting. Maybe there is a reason for that."