Gregory Kokanosky

CTO, TextMe, Inc

Product: TextMe
A universal communication smartphone app for texting and calling for free
Vertical: Telecommunications
Tags: Texting, Communications, Mobile
Co-founders: Christophe Bach, Frederic Benqué, Edouard Munck
Stage: Launched first version of iOS app in 2010
Investment: Bootstrapped
Based: San Francisco, CA

We started the company because we wanted to provide a better and cheaper way to communicate for our users. For instance, when we started, carriers were routinely charging $10/mo for unlimited texting. We came up with a way to offer the same service for free in the US and Canada. And we knew we could apply a similar approach to phone calls as well.
“Everything is possible, at the end of the day it’s only ones and zeros.”

“Be bold but be nice.”

I do not really have mentors, but I like to get feedback about my work or ideas from as many people as possible. Anyone can have a really interesting point of view on your ideas; sometimes you just need to ask!

Businesswise, I have learned a lot working with Christophe, one of our co-founders, who’s already founded several successful companies.

“You know nothing”: measure everything. Even if it’s good to follow your gut feeling sometimes, most of the time if you have no metrics there is no way to measure the success or failure of what you are doing.

MY STORY

I was born in in Compiègne, France, 45 minutes north of Paris. I studied Computer Science and Software Engineering at Paris Diderot University (Paris 7).

I graduated in 2003 and started my career as a software engineer for OpenTrust, a French company focused on security related software built on top of Opensource components. I’m a big fan of the Opensource model.
I quickly became a Software Architect in charge of one of the products and managed a development team for a couple of years.

Discovering how to develop for iOS

In late 2008, Edouard, one of my fellow co-founders, invited me to check out the then newly-released iPhone SDK. I have always been interested in UX & UI, and the iPhone unleashed a whole new universe. It was really exciting to work on that platform. After a few months we released a game, and in 2009 we started working on a new project, which later became TextMe.

We started TextMe to improve the whole texting experience on mobile phone. In early 2010 we released the first version on iOS. We got our first users pretty quickly — at that time, the whole texting market was not as crowded as it is today! We received a huge amount of feedback from our users and kept steadily improving the app and the service.

TextMe moves Stateside

Late 2010 we met Christophe & Fred, our fellow co-founders, and decided to found the company, here in the US with a really ambitious plan. TextMe Inc, was founded in early 2011.

We immediately, and over just a couple of weeks, redesigned the product for a more texting-centric experience, to implement our vision of “free texting”. We focused our launch mainly on the US and Canada. The launch was a success and we went from almost no revenue to profit in 12 months. It was especially important since we had decided to bootstrap the company and not raise any money.

Gamification and virtual currency

The following year, we turned TextMe into a full feature virtual phone with a really innovative business model in the communication space. While texting was still totally free, placing calls requires users to “earn” TextMe credits — our virtual currency. We applied mechanisms usually found in video games to earn those credits. In 2013, we launched our free texting service in the UK, a market where all our competitors have since given up.

We are currently working on a huge overhaul of the product, although the details are still a secret. Last but not least, we built an amazing team of 20 super skilled people spread across design, development, telecom, business and customer support.

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