It’s a novel concept, “Exploring the world through sound” He says. Rather than the images and videos of Instagram and Vine, Foundbite captures sound with still images. It’s difficult in a way, not every image we take is worthy of its own sound effect, yet that’s what James Mundy, one of the two developers of Foundbite wants to tackle.
The app is special in many ways. For one, it is a social media app which debuted exclusively on windows Phone and is coming to iOS and android later (reversing the usual trend of start-ups launching first on iOS.) It is also an app that does something very different from all the other social media apps. It does not share videos, nor does it share images (in the Instagram sense). No, what it shares is sound.
Speaking to Mundy in Camden in London, you could tell the passion he had for his app and concept. While he is now 24 years old, he started working on Foundbite when he was at university. He was one of the devs which took part in the Microsoft’s app campus program.
When I asked him how much Microsoft helped, he told me they helped a lot at the beginning. “They gave us 20,000 Euros to help out” he said. For a student, that went a long way in bringing Foundbite from concept to reality.
The app has had over 150,000 downloads since it was first launched in November 2013 and has about 10 – 16, 000 active users. That is one of the many pitfalls of launching exclusively in Windows Phone for a social network.
“You have a Windows Phone, how many people can you name that have a Windows Phone?” He said, answering my question about user engagement.
He had me there.
Foundbite was a social media app, people who use Windows Phones tend to be quite isolated in their circles as Mundy pointed out, and there would be few people whose friends would use the app, leading to an overall low community base. Similarly, the nature of the app meant that you couldn’t just take impulse pics, something I pointed out to Mundy.
On the app itself, he points out that this app is good at impressing people. “”People are surprised because the sound quality is really clear”. He pulls out his own 930 and shows me a Foundbite he had taken at Hammersmith. “You can even hear the plane flying overhead”.
For those interested, the most active countries on Foundbite were the USA, Brazil, Germany, the UK and India. None of which are surprising, Brazil and India have a lot of low end phones and the EU has relatively high Windows phone penetration.
Foundbite may be a single app, but like Facebook, the developer is interested in turning it in into a platform. Already there is a Foundbite Pinpoint game which leverages the sounds captured in the app to create an engaging game where you have to guess the location of sounds. It certainly is a fun game and has resulted in many new users trying out the app. Aside from Windows Phone; it is also available for Android right now. He has experimented with several other apps but freely admits that sounds are a more difficult concept to play with than filters and images.
I asked him how much Microsoft helps out now; he laughed nervously “Sometimes they give occasional store promotions”. But it was clear to both of us that Windows Phone alone could not take Mundy to the heights he desired. “I don’t regret it” He said, “But a social network needs users”. iOS and Android have those in spades though he recognised that he may not have it as easy in those stores. Really word of mouth was what he hoped for to get it to spread.
Foundbite will come out on iOS and Android soon, but Windows Phone will not be forgotten. There will be an update in January to bring several improvements like improved search capabilities, updated design and support for Windows Phone 8.1 apis. This update will also introduce ads to the app; with an IAP to remove them (feel free to complain if you’d work for free)
As we ended the discussion, he stopped for a minute and stared into space. Then he turned back to me and said “I really think we can make Foundbite into a success, but there’s a long way to go.” We both knew the chances were stacked against him. But as I saw the sincerity in his eyes, all I wanted do in that moment was believe.
Foundbite is an excellent and unique app. One that started life on Windows Phone. It deserves to succeed.
Get Foundbite here.