News Column

Yo App Is Base of Budding Business

July 16, 2014

By Nancy Blair, @nansanfran, USA TODAY

The messaging system Yo has surpassed 2 million users and attracted $1.5 million in venture funding.
The messaging system Yo has surpassed 2 million users and attracted $1.5 million in venture funding.

The 'Yo' app may deliver a fleeting message, but its creator is hoping it can be the base of a budding business.

The app, available for Apple, Android and Windows Phone devices, lets you connect and communicate using the word "yo."

From you: "Yo." To you: "Yo."

That's it.

The app blew up on social media a couple of weeks ago. It has surpassed 2 million users and attracted $1.5 million in funding from investors. Stephen Colbert has mocked it, and developers are finding new uses for it. There's a companion app on the Pebble smart watch.

Now, creator and CEO Or Arbel is setting up shop in San Francisco to market it to corporate brands and keep the Yo user base growing. "Getting a 'Yo' basically means someone is thinking about you," he says, but it can mean many other things. In his vision, companies such as Starbucks might embrace it. You could "Yo" your local Starbucks to order your favorite cup of Joe, and it would "Yo" you back when your drink is ready.

But it's still early in the life of this app with the silly reputation, which launched in Apple's App Store on April 1 (that's no joke).

The background: Arbel created Yo in about eight hours while working in his native Israel with co-founder Moshe Hogeg at Mobli, a social-mobile photo and video-sharing website where Hogeg is CEO. Hogeg asked Arbel to come up with a simple messaging tool that he could use to ping his personal assistant: Yo! Then it started to take off around the Mobli offices. High-profile tech blogger Robert Scoble stumbled upon it while visiting the Israeli start-up scene, tossing fuel onto the viral fire. Scoble has cautioned that without a solid business strategy, Yo could be the "pet rock" of 2014 but has written that "it's the stupid app I just can't delete."

Since Yo has released its programming specifications to developers, a bunch of new ways to use it have popped up. For example, Arbel says InstaYo is a way to get a Yo when a favorite Instagram user posts a photo.

"People are building amazing stuff," Arbel said.

Getting started is easy, but not without limitations. Download the app, create a user name and allow the app to access your contacts. You must have someone's Yo user name to send or receive an initial Yo. Mostly, you have to resort to a, "Hey, download Yo so we can use it together," request outside of the app. But then you're good to go. Yo.

Original headline: Got a new business in the works? That's a Yo

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Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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