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Awful or Awesome

Is The Yo App A Sign Of Startup Apocalypse, Or A Genius, Hyper-Simple Messaging Tool?

Put another way: Is the new app everyone's talking about awful or awesome?

As you may have heard, there was a big rhumpus this week over the release of a new app. No, we aren't talking about Facebook's Snapchat-like Slingshot. We are talking instead about the amazingly simple—if perhaps not amazing— messaging app, Yo.

That app, created by Or Abel and already funded to the tune of some $1 million, essentially does one thing only: It allows users to send the word "Yo" to their friends. The service proved popular in its first week—even topping Slingshot in the App Store yesterday, while racking up 100,000 downloads. Abel sees his creation signaling the demise of lengthy push notifications and told us that it "really helps cut through the noise." That may be true but we couldn't help but wonder: Is he a mad genius of marketing who has built something that might change the way we communicate, or simply, well, mad? We turned to three experts in the field to help us figure it all out.

Fast Company columnist Om Malik:

"Yo, to me, feels like The Onion’s take on pointless apps. I think Yo is a symptom of app economy gone completely wrong. Call me old fashioned, but I want my tech startups to solve actual problems."

Verdict: Awful

Sean Flynn, Partner, Shasta Ventures

"What they’ve done well is they’ve got people talking about it. By being so limited-use case, it’s now got people trying it out, testing it out. The question is do they grow beyond that? Unless you know what their future plans are—and I don’t know what their future plans are—it’s hard to say whether or not [the $1 million dollar investment] is justified or not. One investment does not a bubble make, and this is not $20 million; it’s a million dollars. If you actually look at most seed investments, what people are really betting on is the team, in a way, more than the idea. There are very few overnight success stories, and many of these companies go on to iterate multiple times. I think launching with a limited use case is an interesting PR strategy, because it’s at least differentiated in that regard. It gives them an opportunity to do something, hopefully, more interesting and more compelling over time."

Verdict: Eh

Robin Frank, Cofounder, Shorti.org

"I think this could do great things for mankind. Or, I’m not sure.
No, it’s obviously ridiculous in it’s current iteration. But could be a clever way of getting attention for a bigger release. I just hope: 1. Whoever funded it saw things we haven’t seen yet or 2. It's a joke from someone sick of ridiculous apps. I’d imagine getting Yo’d in my Google Glass is like getting bitten by a mosquito. Tiny and annoying."

Verdict: Awful

FINAL VERDICT: AWFUL

Now it's your turn: What do you think of Yo? Is It awful or awesome?