LOCAL application developer Chrends Sdn Bhd has secured venture capital from the San Francisco-based China Rock Capital Management Ltd to develop Chrends - anonymous and untraceable group chat application for the iPhone.
Chrends developer Keeran Janin told The Brunei Times that the investment will give his company the resources to move to Silicon Valley to build a team to grow the Chrends app quickly.
“The app you see today on the app store is what we call a minimum viable product, meant to prove the concept of our long-term vision,” he said, adding that his company has focused on developing the anonymous messaging technology within the chat network.
He declined to disclose the amount of funding he received from China Rock Capital.
China Rock Capital is a spinoff of Farallon Capital Management, one of the world’s largest hedge firms and manages over US$20 billion worth of assets.
The word “Chrends” was derived from the phrase “chatrooms for trending topics”. Janin said using this app will let people create chatrooms based on any of the latest trending topics happening in the real world, and chat openly with other people about it without revealing their identity.
“We’ve built a system that relays messages on servers placed around, that stores no information about you, or where you’re from, or even your IP address,” he said.
Janin said that by the time a message arrives to the user, it is impossible for the user to trace where it came from.
“We are so strict in our design that not even the engineers at Chrends can know who you are,” he said.
“Topics such as #prayforMH370 or #AmericanIdol are some examples, where the people who you are chatting with are probably the people you’ve never met but share a common interest on that topic,” he said.
Janin said there are “no identities” in Chrends and the conversations are “so interesting because the value is in what is said and not who is saying it.”
Janin contrasted this with the microblogging site Twitter where celebrities usually have millions of followers even if they don’t tweet anything significant.
“On Chrends, your popularity is solely based on the consistent quality of your words and opinions,” he said.
Janin said that the public response so far has been “very positive” with people talking openly, even on very polarising topics with different opinions and have very productive debates.
There are still some challenges, however.
Janin said there are trolls, or malicious users, who go to chatrooms just to spread false information and be abusive.
“We’ve known this from the start and have been working on a novel way of tackling it, and that is where the real value in Chrends lie,” he said.
The VC funding, he said, will give the company the resources to develop a solution for this.
Janin said they plan to promote Chrends in other countries, believing that it will benefit everyone.
“I believe that open, constructive dialogue is the most powerful tool in improving society,” he said.
For Janin, anonymity helps in promoting healthy debate and discussion online.
“When you throw away the whole concept of identity in a conversation, who you are, who you know, that all means nothing.
Everyone becomes equal and there is not fear in asking the wrong question, no fear in giving an honest opinion, just as it is important that there is no incentive to speak evil, as you gain nothing from it,” he said.
The Brunei Times