Bubble Motion, the Singapore-based startup that’s built a significant following on the strength of its “Twitter for voice”-style audio messaging service, today announced a new $5 million investment from JAFCO Asia. It’s a strategic investment that the company says is aimed at helping grow its international presence, though Bubble Motion is already doing pretty well on that front, with 19 million users and recent iPhone and Android launches in app stores around the world.
But the company has found success not because of its smartphone apps, but because its service is available to users of any kind of mobile phone, feature or smartphone, even without data access. People use Bubbly, its flagship app, to record messages and post them to their account, where friends and followers can check in on their voice updates. The service has had huge adoption in countries across Asia including Indonesia, Japan and India, where it’s been adopted and popularized by a group of around 1,000 celebrities including comedians, musicians and Bollywood stars, much like how Twitter gained a lot of mainstream U.S. attention from users like Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey.
“What we’ll probably do, ironically, is use the Japanese funds to more aggressively market in the U.S.,” Bubble Motion CEO Tom Clayton said in an interview. “We might try to recruit some celebrities on the U.S. side, we might spend a little more on advertising to get initial downloads up. That’s likely what we’re going to do with the funding, though we haven’t decided for sure yet.” This strategic round actually just adds to the $10 million the company announced it raised in March, which Clayton still says is largely in the bank.
While Bubbly has had significant success in Asia and continues to attract new users, investors and carrier partners there and in other global emerging markets, making its model work in the U.S. could be more difficult. There are a few other companies trying to do the same thing, including Cloud Talk, Parlor.fm and SayNow. SayNow, which got started in 2005, was acquired by Google last year, having maxed out at 15 million users, representing arguably the most successful attempt at cracking this market outside of Bubbly. Despite SayNow’s decent traction, the model doesn’t seem to have captured the imaginations of users in North America in quite the same way as text- and image-based tools.
There’s definitely a lot of buzz growing behind Bubble Motion, though, and its growth continues to impress in Asia. Cracking the U.S. market may prove its greatest challenge yet, but even without a major victory on this side of the Pacific, Bubbly looks to be on a path towards bigger and better things.