Lookup, a messaging app connecting local merchants with customers, has raised Seed A funding from three investors for a total of $382,000.
The app, by Innoz Founder Deepak Ravindran, had started off with a $160,000 angel funding by Infosys Co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan.
Apart from the $160,000 seed funding by Kris, Lookup raised another $100,000 from MKS Switzerland, MA. The latest round is from Japanese investors DeNA and Teruhide Sato. The company may go in for Seed B funding later and hopes to raise Series A in February, Deepak said.
Lookup offers a Whatsapp-like interface enabling users to discover and reach out to merchants in their vicinity. Customers can chat with shopkeepers and restaurateurs through the app.
What differentiates Lookup from other messaging apps is that it helps users protect their privacy, says Deepak. For instance, sending a Whatsapp message to a merchant also means that the merchant has access to one’s telephone number, a prospect not many of us are comfortable with.
With Lookup, the messages are routed through its customer care centre and the messages are managed by them. Apart from privacy, it also help keep up the quality of the interaction.
The app is now available in Bengaluru, but will also launch in Mumbai next month, said Ravindran. The money raised will be used for product development, adding merchant partners and marketing, Deepak said.
Lookup was launched in November and has had 5,000 downloads with about 2,000 daily users. The app is now available only on Android but the iOS version will be launched this week, added Deepak.
Other than local businesses, Lookup is also running a test pilot with one police station in the Koramangala in Bengaluru to connect local citizens in the neighbourhood to the police.
Lookup expects this to help in women security as well as make it easier to report crimes as users can share photos through the app.
DeNA’sflagship business is its mobile social games platform Mobage, while Sato-san is the President and CEO of netprice.com. He also launched CyberCash, an online payment company, in the Japanese market with the Softbank Corporation.
Deepak’s last venture was Innoz, an SMS search app, which was offered on the platforms of the telecom service providers.
With the decline in the use of messaging as the smartphone usage soared, he shut it down and has offered Innoz up as an open source platform to developers in markets where SMS is still in use.
With the increasing trend of mobile becoming the main mode of communication and information for Indian users, apps such as Lookup have the potential to become what Justdial was to the internet era.
An app in the US called Path Talk, part of the social networking app Path, which offers similar services, plans to expand to UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand -- a sign of the growing popularity and relevance of such services.
Still, the entry barriers for such products are relatively low, and it now remains to be seen how Lookup will leverage its first mover advantage to maintain its lead even in the face of competition.