GroupFlier: Multi-targeted text messaging

I enjoy looking at art. It’s fun going to the gallery and checking out the latest displays. When you go to enough art galleries, sometimes you’re forced to come to the conclusion that not all art is good. I mean, am I the only one thinks the Mona Lisa is a substandard painting of remedial import? Or what about Picaso. These famed modern paintings look to be the work of a slightly bored high schooler. And please don’t get me started on the museum of modern art. “Here we have a canvas painted white. It’s called snowy winter.” My inner art child dies a little when going to such exhibits.

My preference for art is for those that have classical talent at it. These are the ones that don’t chop off their ear in the hopes of being found famous once dead. They use a delicate blend of colors that make actual pictures. Sadly, many of them leave their artistic talents by the wayside in the spirit of earning a living.

Another form of art I enjoy is that of building websites. People put the same time effort and energy into them as many art exhibits. Some are like sculptures with multiple pages and dimensions. And some are like paintings, just conveying information. Many start-ups however, are like the museum of modern art. Their incomplete nature and sometimes obscure designs are often rough and unrefined.

Today I came across a true masterpiece. I’m not talking about a Mona Lisa that garners hoopla just for having an allegedly mesmerizing half-a-smile. I’m talking about an innovative solution and top quality product. I’m talking aboutĀ GroupFlier.

GroupFlier Home

GroupFlier is a site that connects groups of people via text message. You can create a group, and it gives you a phone number that can send text messages to all the group members. The basic concept is fairly straightforward, and undoubtedly useful. What makes GroupFlier stand out is its implementation. It’s like a luxury cruise ship amongst the ocean of skiffs and paddle boats that comprise the start-up world.

To start, you don’t have to go through a cumbersome registration process. See, GroupFlier knows that every phone number is unique. They also know that your phone is a quick and easy way to communicate with you. So they jumped outside of their box and let you use your phone number to create your account. Since they were already out of the box, they went the whole distance and never force you to do anything to register. If you’d like a group phone number to text people, just enter your number, the name of your group, and then all the people you’d like to communicate with. Just like that, your account is created. Once created, it sends you a text message with the unique phone number that you can use to send text messages to your group. So, let’s say I create a group- let’s call it Adoring Fans. To it I’ll add a lengthy list of B-list celebrities who, for reasons unbeknownst to me, have taken to following my every move. (I have a wild imagination to be sure…) After adding all their names and numbers to the list, I then will be texted a single number. Henceforth I can use it to send messages to those near famous entertainers waiting anxiously by their phones.

What if however, one of these almost celebrities falls out of favor and is no longer is won over by pages of written charm. GroupFlier provides two ways to remove them from my faithful followers. The first is by using star commands. There are a series of commands which are preceded by a star, that you can send to the group number. In this case you would text “*remove B-lister” to the group phone number, and that person will be removed. You can also make this change online. But hold the horses folks. We never received any sort of login information, never had to invent a password and type it in twice just to be sure- none of that stuff. GroupFlier’s reprieve from the normal online registration routine takes the form of going to their website, entering your number, and they’ll text message you a pin number. With it, you can log in and make changes to your account. This includes adding new groups, new people to groups, editing people, seeing who is in the group, joining groups of your own or removing yourself from them, and a few other features. The most important settings have star command options.

Now that we’ve gotten the hang of this new service, let’s envision a sad scenario. Far from being an icon amongst failed movie stars, what if you lack a large a vibrant social circle. For this GroupFlier allows public groups. To join one just go to the web and enter your name and number. You can also join by text. This brings us to just about the only limitations of GroupFlier, which is that each group is limited to 100 people. Most of us won’t have a problem keeping within that limit.

Not wanting to settle with building an already innovative and well designed application, GroupFlier decided to pull out all the stops. They built a fully documented API so web developers can programmatically access their system. This opens the floodgates of possibilities for people to utilize GroupFlier’s service in any number of ways. It’s truly stunning for such a new site.

Now, most people are probably wondering what this whole thing is going to cost. It will likely come as a surprise then that GroupFlier is free. Actually, it’s not only free, but it saves you money. You are only charged (by your cell phone company) for the single text to the number. The distribution to your up-to-one-hundred followers, is handled by GroupFlier.

Websites are like art. And just like art not all websites are created the same. GroupFlier has set the bar by which other start-ups will be measured with their innovative design and service. In fact, we’ve confirmed from sources close to their team that they’re presenting at SXSW, a music and film interactive in Austin, TX. It’s a place for cool cats, but we think they’ll hold their own.

Update from GroupFlier 21 Mar 2011:

We are soon going to be introducing premium plans for the use of our service.

Unfortunately, as of today, we can no longer accept new free groups. All free users will have to decide whether they wish to upgrade to a plan by April 4, which is two weeks from today.

We will have pricing on these plans soon, as we listen to your feedback about whether there is interest in these plans. Our most economical plan will start at $4.99 per month per group and will go up from there based on group size and usage.

We began our service at the end of November and the response has been beyond our expectations. As a result, our costs have gone up far more rapidly than we had planned. We pay for all incoming and outgoing SMS (text) traffic to our site, so with almost 3 million messages served in the first four months, we have simply been unable to keep up and secure additional financing.

Our original hope was to build a big enough network to offer advertising and e-commerce. We may still get there, but have to defray our costs as we go.

Our plan now is to offer a pay for service — the rates will be very reasonable, consistent with being able to cover our operational costs. Feedback is welcome.

We appreciate your support.