Multitask1021

This week, a D.C. company that developed an app to stop you from firing off an errant text looks for help capitalizing on its early buzz. – Dan Beyers

Maci Peterson (Nick Provost/E-N-Productions) Maci Peterson (Nick Provost/E-N-Productions)

The entrepreneur

Maci Peterson has had her share of regrettable texts messages. There was the time she texted a guy before their first date with an overly suggestive message, thanks to an autocorrect mishap. And the time she slipped up in a text to an ex-boyfriend. There are plenty of other examples.

Peterson polled her friends and found they overwhelmingly shared similar texting faux pas. She searched for an app that could take back texts she didn’t mean to send, but couldn’t find one. So her friends encouraged her to create it. She sketched out a business plan and pitched her way to first place in a national SXSW business plan competition. That was the validation Peterson needed to recruit two tech co-founders and launch D.C.-based On Second Thought.

The pitch

Peterson, founder and chief executive of On Second Thought

“On Second Thought is a messaging app that lets you take back text messages before they get to the other person’s phone. For all those times when you hit send and think ‘oh shoot, I didn’t mean to say that!,’ you can get the message back and also preserve your reputation.

“When you use On Second Thought, the text never actually gets to the other person’s phone. Users download the app and use it for all of their messaging. Within the app, you can set the length of your grace period for how long your texts are held before they are sent and can be taken back, between 0 to 60 seconds. After hitting ‘send,’ users have that grace period to retrieve messages to edit or delete. We also have a ‘curfew’ mode to hold all messages for a set period, for those times when users think they might be having a little too much ‘fun’ and lose good judgment when it comes to texting.

“We released our Android public beta version in December 2014. We have had great growth and have more than 40,000 users now. We have won several start-up and pitch competitions. We’re building our iOS version for iPhone users to launch this fall. We are currently raising a seed round of funding and we are ready to take things to the next level.

“We’ll make money through user subscription fees, licensing our technology and the enterprise version, and additional features that we’re building into the app.

“As we ramp up, we’re primed for rapid development. We’ve cast our net really wide in terms of awareness. Right now we’re focused on converting that awareness into downloads and user engagement. We know part of the solution is releasing our iPhone version. But in the meantime, how do we capitalize on the publicity we’ve received and the awareness we’ve built? Because we’re focusing on consumers first, we know it’s really important to scale rapidly.”

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Don’t discount the fact that you already have 40,000 Android users. Keep developing your iPhone app, but start testing your monetization models with your users. As you raise money, investors will want to understand how you are getting users and your conversion rate to paid users.

“Until you get your iPhone app out, your market is Android users, and that’s a huge market.Test and tweak exactly what works on how you get subscription fees, how you grow your base, etc. Continue to build awareness and drive people to the Google Play store.

“Find out everything you can about those users – how they use your app, how often, what features they use or don’t use, etc. Understand who is most willing to pay for your app. You should be moving out of your beta test to start charging customers. Sometimes when people have had something for free, they really don’t want to ever pay for it. If you wait too long to turn that on, you’ve lost the ability to charge for your service.

“Continue to build an engaged community of people interested in and waiting for your app by collecting e-mail addresses. Make sure you are capturing interest by making it really easy for people to sign up for your community on your Web site. Display your link to sign up prominently. Encourage people to participate in the community, for example by sharing funny stories about text messages they wished they hadn’t sent.”

The reaction

Peterson

“Our user base is at the point where we can begin to test and gain insight on a statistically significant basis. Understanding their behavior is crucial to the development and growth of our company. We have spent the summer attaching analytics to every action and button within the app so we can better understand the frequency of people’s engagement. This data will fuel our customer monetization, marketing and product development strategies. In addition, we will continue to listen to our users to discover new opportunities for our technology to help them fix their mistakes in mobile communication.

Building our communities has been reprioritized to the top of our list. Readers can engage with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. We encourage them to share stories and screenshots of their texting snafus by using the hashtag #getOST. Those with Android phones can download the app, and those with iPhones can sign-up to be among the first to use it.”

Looking for some advice on a new business, or need help fixing an existing one? Capital Business and the experts at the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business are ready to assist. Contact us at capbiznews@washpost.com.