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“Customers were telling us that they wanted a solution that gave them instantaneous social connectivity – but focused on the smaller circle of people they wanted to keep in touch with the most.”

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Enflick was founded in the fall of 2009 by two computer engineering graduates from the University of Waterloo, Jon Lerner and Derek Ting. Enflick’s mission is to create, maintain and continuously evolve innovative connectivity solutions that empower people to stay closer with their friends and family.

Touch and TextNow are the company’s two core products. Both products are used by millions of users worldwide and are growing rapidly. TextNow provides fast and reliable text messaging — for free. In March of 2011, TextNow sent its billionth message. Touch is designed to make staying connected with close friends and family an amazing experience.

MO: What inspired you and Jon to launch Enflick together? Did you start off with the concepts for your core products when launching or just a shared desire to create innovative solutions?

Derek: We did have a concept for a core technology before launching Enflick – with TextNow, our flagship free text messaging product. We observed a huge demographic, particularly among young people, that wasn’t being served by the existing texting model or ‘plans’ that were delivered by carriers. Being located near the University of Waterloo with a large student population, this need was especially apparent to us. (Having attended university there, we were also very familiar with this community!) We saw a market that was cash strapped yet had a huge desire and interest in connecting with others. Further, we knew that this market was also extremely tech savvy. We wanted to develop a connectivity solution that was easy to use yet highly accessible and affordable to this market.

MO: The success of Enflick has come from your ability to see a market need and develop a technology solution specific to that need. Can you elaborate a bit on the process of creating solutions for underserved markets? What kinds of research are you doing do identify these opportunities?

Derek: We already had a user base of more than 21 million when we launched Touch, so we did have considerable input from customers, and we’ve always made listening to users a top priority. We saw that the mobile social networking market was exploding – the market data was pretty clear on this; however, the solutions that were out there focused on supporting very large numbers of acquaintances or specialized interest groups. Customers were telling us that they wanted a solution that gave them instantaneous social connectivity – but focused on the smaller circle of people they wanted to keep in touch with the most. We heard it again and again from users. People wanted a solution to instantly connect with their innermost circle of friends and family, anytime and from any device. So in the case of identifying the opportunity for Touch, we heard it directly from our users and also experienced it ourselves from our own usage.

MO: What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?

Derek: My biggest risk was probably TextNow – basically developing and delivering what we knew would be a free service. There’s definitely some risk when you’re investing personal resources and time and putting a solution out there for free! But doing so was integral to our mission – which was to make it accessible and affordable for everyone to send real-time messages to each other. We knew that obtaining momentum would be key for the ultimate success – and monetization – of TextNow. To gain momentum, we decided to start on the iPod Touch platform because it was highly available at that time to our target market. It made it really simple for users to try the product – they only needed an iPod Touch and a WiFi connection. As it was in 2009, the iPod Touch was ‘the’ big item, especially among young people, that year, so the timing added to our momentum as well. We also worked to get the support of app reviewers and bloggers – getting our product to them, getting them to use it, so they would publicize its value among their followers. Following this strategy really paid off, with TextNow going viral in December 2009. We had so much traffic coming in that we basically skipped the holidays with our families that year. We needed to be available to ensure the servers didn’t crash due to the overwhelming number of users.

MO: How have you managed to gain such an impressive amount of traction since first launching? What aspects of your marketing strategy have you found to be most successful?

Derek: We use open forums for feedback, as well as social media tools and are always looking for opportunities to maintain a two-way dialogue with users regarding ongoing needs and wants. We’re always paying attention to the things around us that we can improve and encouraging and listening to users’ feedback. Also, our strategy includes a very flexible monetization model. Although we use an advertising supported revenue model, we also offer an option for users that don’t want that and offer multiple levels. All of our pricing is competitive, offering the most functionality at the lowest possible price – and also free, of course.

MO: You’re in the rare and enviable position of having exceeded all of your expectations in a relatively short period of time. How do you stay inspired and what are your plans for keeping the momentum going?

Derek: I’m tremendously inspired by other companies’ successes. Elon Musk’s success with Tesla, as well as SpaceX, is very inspiring. It always inspires me to watch people pursue their personal passions. Being exposed to fresh ideas – even if they’re not related to our particular market – also gives a different perspective and helps the creative juices. Staying hungry to solve real user connectivity problems is critical to keep the momentum going as well. We’re constantly testing our ideas and expanding if and when ideas are validated.

MO: Outside of your own innovations what apps or sites have you been excited about this past year?

Derek: I’ve been using Asana, and it’s really changed the way that I organize my work-life. It’s helped improve my personal productivity, as well as the productivity and focus of internal teams in the departments that are using it, including design, Q&A and operations. Also, Quora delivers amazing content contributed by real people. I can very quickly and easily sort through and organize the content that matters most to me.


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