A London-headquartered startup called LOVE,its pre-seed funding, redefines how people stay in touch with close family and friends. The company is launching a messaging app that offers a combination of and asynchronous video and audio messaging in an ad-free, privacy-focused experience with several bells and whistles, including artistic filters and real-time transcription and translation features.
But LOVE’s more significant differentiator may not be its guided by its user base instead of having the decisions made about its future determined by an elite few at the top of some corporate hierarchy. In addition, the company’s longer-term goal is ultimately to hand over ownership of the , the company says.alone but rather the company’s mission. LOVE aims for its product direction to be democratically
These concepts have emerged as part of more prominent trends towards a sort of “Web 3.0,” or the, where services are decentralized, user privacy is elevated, data is protected, and transactions take place on digital ledgers, as a blockchain, in a more distributed fashion.
LOVE’s founders are proponents of this new model, including serial entrepreneur Samantha Radocchia, who previously founded three companies and was an early advocate for the blockchain as the co-founder of Chronicled, an enterprise blockchain company focused on the pharmaceutical supply chain.
As someone interested insince her days of writing her anthropology thesis on currency exchanges in “Second Life’s” virtual world, she’s now faculty at Singularity University, where she’s given talks about blockchain, AI, Internet of Things, Future of Work, and other topics. She’s also authored an introductory guide to the blockchain with her book “Bitcoin Pizza.”
Meanwhile, co-founder Christopher Schlaeffer held several roles at Deutsche Telekom, including chief product & innovation officer, corporate development officer, and chief strategy officer, where he, along with Google execs, introduced the first mobile phone to run Android. He was also a chief digital officer at the telecommunication services company VEON.
The twoafter Schlaeffer had already begun the work of organizing a team to bring LOVE to the public, which includes co-founders Chief Technologist Jim Reeves, also previously of VEON, and Chief Designer Timm Kekeritz, formerly an interaction designer at international design firm IDEO in San Francisco, design director at IXDS and founder of design consultancy Raureif in Berlin, among other roles.
Explained Radocchia; what attracted her to join as CEO was the potential to create a new company that upholds more positive values than what’s often seen today — in fact, the brand name “LOVE” is a reference to this aim. She was also interested in the potential to think through what she describes as “new business models that are not reliant on advertising or harvesting the data of our users,” she says.
To that end, LOVE plans to monetize without any advertising. While the company isn’t ready to explain its business model, it would involve users opting into services through granular permissions and membership, we’re told. “We believe our users will much rather be willing to pay for services they consciously use and grant permissions to in a given context than have their data used for an advertising model which is simply not transparent,” says Radocchia.
LOVE expects to share more about the mobile messenger offering an exciting combination of features. Like any other video chat app, you can video call with friends and family in one-on-one calls or groups. Currently, LOVE supports up to five call participants but expects to expand that as it scales. The video and audio messaging for asynchronous conversations. Some tools already this sort of functionality on the market — like WhatsApp, with its support for audio messages or video messenger Marco Polo. But they don’t provide quite the same expanded feature set.. As for the LOVE app itself, it’s a relatively polished
For starters, for brevity’s sake, LOVE limits its video messages to 60 seconds. (As anyone who’s used Marco Polo knows, videos can become a bit rambling, which makes it harder to catch up when you’re behind on group chats.) In addition, LOVE allows you to both watch the video content as well as read the real-time transcription of what’s being said — the latter which comes in handy not only for accessibility’s sake but also for those times you want to hear someone’s messages but aren’t in a private place to listen or don’t have headphones. Conversations can also be translated into 50 languages.
“Much of the traditional communication or messenger products are coming from a paradigm that has always been text-based,” explains Radocchia. “We’re approaching it completely differently. So while other platforms have many of the features that we do, I think that…the perspective that we’ve approached it has completely flipped it on its head,” she continues. “As opposed to bolting video messages onto a primarily text-based interface, [LOVE is] doing it oppositely and adding text as a sort of a magically transcribed add-on — and something that you never, hopefully, need to be typing out on your keyboard again,” she adds.
Meanwhile, the app’s design elements where bubbles float around as you speak, and the bubble with the current speaker grows to pull your focus away from looking at yourself. The company is also working with the curator of Serpentine Gallery in London, Hans Ulrich-Obrist, to create new filters that aren’t about beautification or gimmicks but are instead focused on introducing a new form of visual expression that makes more comfortable on camera.to encourage eye-to-eye contact with the speaker to make conversations feel more natural. It does this through
For the time being, this has resulted in a filter that slightly abstracts your appearance, almost in the style of animation or some other form of need to be storing any of this information.”art. The app claims to use and automatically delete its content after seven days — except for messages you recorded if you’ve chosen to save them as “memorable moments.” “One of our commitments is to privacy and the right to forget,” says Radocchia. “We don’t want to be or
LOVE has been soft-launched on the, where it’s been used with several testers, and is working to organically grow its user base through an onboarding invite mechanism that asks users to invite at least three people to join. This onboarding process also carefully explains why LOVE asks for permissions — like using speech recognition to create subtitles.
LOVE says its valuation is around USD 17from a combination of traditional startup investors and strategic angel investors across various industries, including tech, film, media, TV, and financial services. The company will this fall.
The app is currently available on iOS, but an Android version will arrive later in the year. (Note that LOVE does not now support the iOS 15 beta software, which has issues with speech transcription and other areas. That should be resolved, following an app update now in the works.)