Big Idea

Babble out, Bobble in

This Gurugram-based start-up has found its winning formula in zinging up your old-school smartphone keyboards and making texting fun again

Vishal Koul

Is ‘hey’ too friendly? Should we stick to ‘hi’ and maybe risk looking a bit stuck up? What about ‘hello’? Is that too eager? These spells of doubt-and-resignation are what Gurugram-based Bobble AI is here to rescue you from. While it started as an app that could animate selfies to create stickers with funky taglines, it has become much more within its four years. Its keyboard-app now helps us use images, stickers and even regional language to express ourselves.

The start-up’s parent company, Talent Unlimited Online Services, was founded by IIT-Delhi batchmates Ankit Prasad and Mohammed Wassem in 2011. From creating a social networking platform for artists to turning selfies into bobble-head stickers, the team tried and tested several ideas before arriving on their flagship product — Bobble Keyboard.

Content is king

In early 2014, the company raised Rs.40 million from 18 angel investors such as Sachin and Binny Bansal, Deep Kalra, Amit Ranjan, along with venture capitalist SAIF Partners. The young entrepreneurs realised how the world was moving towards smartphone dependency and launched Bobble Content, the selfie sticker app, in 2015. Prasad’s team wanted to make chatting more engaging and personalised. After receiving feedback and fixing bugs, the app went viral within a few months with over one million users and SAIF Partners invested another $3 million in September 2015. 

When all was going well, the start-up experienced its first hiccup — Android scrapped the API (application programme interface) that the app was using to distribute its content. The API would detect the app running in the foreground and allow Bobble to show a circular widget on the screen. The widget would, for instance, show on the corner of WhatsApp and users could use Bobble’s stickers without exiting the app. “That widget was a really successful hack for us,” says Prasad. With it gone, Bobble couldn’t provide most of its features anymore.

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