Alison K. Lanier
Tech Crunch recently featured in their video series “Road to Disrupt” a startup company called Ansa. The company created a messaging app for text, voice, photo, and video that is “built for more utility than that other ephemeral messaging service.”
Snapchat, All Grown Up
Ansa, with a modest 7,437 likes on Facebook, introduces itself as “simple, safe communication.” Welcome words, in the face of Snapchat’s less than simple or safe history of hacks as well as storing—theoretically—temporary images.
What sets the app apart, according to the homepage, is the control over media that Ansa gives the user. Essentially the draw here is that the sender can delete any message at any time leaving “no trace” of conversations, pictures, videos, and so on. The site promises “off-the-record messaging,” in which no saved record of the conversation will exist. A “synced deletion,” which amounts to remote deletion of previously sent messages and “self-destructing media,” which allows the user to send messages with a timer function which deletes the message “seconds after delivery.”
While the self-destruct feature does not sound entirely novel to Ansa—that is to say, it sounds something like the essence of a Snapchat message—these other two aspects of the app are certainly innovations in terms of giving users a sense of security over their own data.
Snapchat repeatedly provokes concerns, as Nvate reported at the time of Snapchat’s massive hack, about the actual permanence of data sent out into the digital world. While screenshot notifications and vanishing messages are all well and good, those features neither prevent Snapchat screenshots nor ensure that the message doesn’t still exist elsewhere, on a server or in a cloud.
Ansa addresses what Tech Crunch calls the need for “core anonymity” in messaging services. But anonymity is not the only draw of the app. Ansa also envisions the product in use by companies like Starbucks who might want to send out a self-destructing coupon: “Act now—this offer won’t last long!”
Natalie Bryla, CEO of Ansa and its vocal Internet presence, presented the app at Tech Crunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield in September 2013. Bryla is a graduate of the University of Colorado and former CEO of BestFriendBox, a service for subscription box deliveries of goodies for dog owners’ furry best friends. Bryla moved up in her post-graduate marketing ambitions however. In another point of comparison with the male duo that launched and represent Snapchat, Bryla reflects on her experience launching Amsa on college campuses over the past year in the article, “What three women learned launching on a college campus.”
After the “proverbial TechCrunch bump,” the result of Ansa’s presence at Disrupt, the little app with its first 10,000 users decided it was time to accelerate growth by hitting the ground marketing, face-to-face with its college-aged clients. The article reads as a helpful guide for startup-culture dreamers and as a testimony to Ansa’s genuine response to its client-base. “Every day,” reflects the article on Ansa’s website, “we continued to design, code, and talk directly to users.”
“Students are brutally honest, and I love them for it,” wrote Bryla. Interaction with “bluntly honest” students who had no time to dwell over a point of confusion—is this how I share a photo? Wait, I have to register my phone before using the app?—seriously streamlined the app, according to Ansa. The drawing tool was improved, and the phone registration step removed. The information structure and flows were repeatedly reorganized so that they were immediately clear and usable in the eyes of the campus testers.
Widening the Client Base
This young app with a young—female—face may be testing with a college crowd, but the app is aiming above and beyond its potential role as the next great teenaged pastime.
Disrupt’s judges made sure that Bryla made the distinctions clear between the services her app provides and how users are already being served by Snapchat. “Snapchat’s really targeted at a younger group of students” Bryla said in the Tech Crunch video. “But when I’ve been talking to older people, they really get this. They say I don’t use Snapchat, I don’t want to use Snapchat.” As Bryla laughed backstage later, “Yeah, old people want this!”
But joking aside, the more serious, more in-the-user’s-hands approach to ephemeral messaging comes off as a more mature, more professional rendition of the infamously naughty, high-school doodling Snapchat.
Ansa’s presentation at Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield segment stressed—much like Snapchat did in its presentation on the Colbert Report—that this app makes communicating remotely more like communicating in real life. Ansa’s real-life interaction, of course, comes with the added bonus that the evidence of messages, pictures, doodles, and so on rest entirely in the sender’s hands.
This is an app that brings to life the end of that phone-age-old anxiety “I wish I could take that text back…” The looming question hanging over this miraculous solution, though, is getting texters on the app to begin with. Available on Android and iOS, the app that offers you the control to reach into your messaging past seems to be making all the right moves to bring those users, young and old, in the fold.
The app is available for free from Apple and Android.
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