VIBER CEO Talmon Marco loves the color purple. “I’m a big supporter of purple,” he said. “We have an internal group on Viber that’s all about purple things.”
He scrolled through his Viber gallery, showing us a purple tree, a purple goat and purple eyes.
“You have to try our purple yam!” we say to him.
“And our ube ice cream! It’s purple!”
We tell him about Good Shepherd’s ube jam and Red Ribbon’s ube cake.
And to make sure they got a very purple dose of Filipino hospitality—we gave him a small tub of ube ice cream.
“Wait, why do you love purple?”
“It’s Viber,” he said with a smile.
Viber is a cross-platform messaging and VoIP app that sends and receives calls over the Internet. To date there are over 200 million users—six million in the Philippines. Viber’s growth is continuously growing, adding about half a million users a day, according to Talmon.
Talmon was here to talk about Viber’s exclusive partnership with Globe Telecom. Minutes before his appearance at Globe’s event, Super asks him about his purple baby, his favorite stickers on Viber and why he chose Globe as Viber’s partner.
What was your inspiration for creating the app?
We started over three years ago and we were looking for a better way to communicate with our friends, with our family. SMS works, you send a message and the other party is going to get it.We wanted to build something which was not just a very basic level of functionality, we wanted to do something which was better, fun and more reliable and at the same time cheap. That’s why we built Viber.
There are a lot of mobile messaging apps. What do you think sets Viber apart?
Viber was one of the first ones and Viber was designed to be fun on one end but really reliable on the other end. For example, if you look at iPhone, Viber has a way of running in the background so the delivery is better. We built the interface to be really clean. I’ll give you an example. You meet somebody at a club and you write on your phone in your phone book that it’s “Joe Club.” Now when “Joe Club” sets up his application and he writes down his real name and then he sends you a message, on Viber when you get the push notification, you’re going to see “Joe Club.” You’re going to identify the person the way you know them, not the way they call themselves. In many of the other apps, you will see the message coming from how they call themselves because it’s easier to build. It’s the little things that make a big product. With Viber we try to build a blend between high quality and features. Viber also has voice.
Why the name Viber?
We looked at hundreds of names. Viber sounded like a cool name—it vibrates, when we talk, it’s a happening name, and you can use it as a verb.
You’re here now with Globe. How did this project come about?
We started talking to them a few months ago about ways that we can work together and Globe was very open. They were looking for ways to differentiate to make their service better so we found the Globe people to be very receptive of the Viber message about messaging. We started working on this, defining things, and they saw an opportunity with Viber to improve messaging. They have SMS, they have a great network but by adding Viber messaging to the plan, they can now offer the users better messaging.
Are you planning to add a more social element to Viber?
Viber is becoming increasingly social. We added group messaging and picture messaging, we added videos and we added stickers and in a few days we are adding a new feature that will let you see when the other person actually read your message. It’s optional.
Who designs your stickers?
Actually up until now there was one guy who was doing all the stickers. Now there are ten of them all over the world.
Could you let us know why the dirty finger sticker is next to the thank you sticker?
(laughs) I can tell you it’s a popular sticker.
Which stickers are the most popular?
I love you is very popular. Everything to do with love is very popular. Everything that truly expresses emotion is truly popular.
Do you have people requesting stickers?
Yes. A lot of our stickers are based on requests from users.
Is your mom on Viber?
How often does she Viber you?
Does she use stickers?
Yes. (scrolling through his Viber messages) Mom is here, Dad is here, brother is here.
Is there a difference in the Viber habits of Filipinos?
We see Filipinos using more messaging than voice.
You mentioned in an interview most of your funding is from family and friends?
Not just immediate family. It’s friends, people who are around the company. We never did an institution round of financing but this is something that may happen. We’ve put a lot of money into Viber so far. It may be time to share the burden with some investors. You never know.
You introduced Viber for desktop. How was the reception?
It’s been good. We are saying that usage and the number of daily downloads week over week going up and up and up. We consider this really a beta project for now. We introduced the new version of Viber desktop yesterday which adds stickers and emoticons and better support for groups. This is a very lively project for us, we really care about our desktop. We are going to introduce very soon Viber desktop for Linux. If you look at our Viber backend it’s all Linux so we have hundreds and hundreds of Linux servers supporting Viber, so this is a way for us to give back to the Linux community by giving Viber. Microsoft recently announced that we are working on a Windows 8 for tablets version and there may be more platforms down the road.
Which platform has the most Viber users?
Android. iOS followed by Windows phone and Blackberry but Windows phone is doing much better. Blackberry is a legacy system, Windows phone is growing nicely, we introduced yesterday a new version for Windows Phone.
Do you use the competing apps, do you check them out?
I think I use pretty much all of them.
Which sticker do you use the most?
On Viber? The thumbs up. I use this one a lot. I use the flower one, like the rose.
Who would you say is your toughest competitor?
There are four other players in the States. We have WhatsApp, WeChat, Kakao Talk and LINE. These are the other companies in the States. These are products, you won’t see me bashing them and each one has its advantages and disadvantages. We love Viber and we’re happy to see that a lot of people in the Philippines share the same sentiment.
You have 6 million users in the Philippines and there could be a lot more, why should people who don’t use Viber yet use it?
So’ll we have more users. For the experience. People join Viber because of the experience, because they want to be connected all the time, because they want to go from ordinary SMS into something which is so much better and now with this partnership they can do all of this without paying a single dime, it’s completely free. If they’re on Globe it’s completely free for them.
Did your expect Viber to become this big?
We had a good feeling about it. A friend of mine analyzes app stores, and I remember telling him, take a look, you’ll see in the next few hours after we launch it’ll start going up up up. Within three days of our launch, we had one million users. It was completely crazy. We were surprised. We expected it to do well, we did not expect it to do that well.
Viber for Globe
You’re never at a loss for words with Globe’s unlimited Viber services
IF THE bulk of your messaging happens on Viber, or if you simply want to get more talking bang for your buck, then Globe’s unlimited Viber services may just be the thing for you.
Those on prepaid can check out the GoUNLI25 subscription, which offers unlimited texts and calls to Globe/TM plus unlimited Viber Chat services. You’ll be able to use Viber without Wi-Fi or additional data charges. Anyone can join in on the unbeatable Viber deal by paying P20/day for unlimited access to Viber calls and chat. If you’re not too big on calls, pay only P10 for unlimited Viber chat instead. To register to any of the Viber mobile browsing promos dial *143# for free.