Breakout

Yo! Critics are missing the point

Jeff Macke
Breakout

Yo! That's the name of an app that had a brief moment in the sun yesterday. Created in just 8 hours and released on April Fool's day, Yo had accumulated a user base of 50,000 who had sent more than 4 million Yos as of earlier this week. That was prior to the news that Yo's creator Or Arbel had raised $1 million and was leaving his native Israel to open a Yo office in San Francisco. Of course.

I want to be clear on this point: all the app does is send the word "Yo" to someone on your message list. And you have to invite them because Yo is a closed network. If your dog could code he'd make an app exactly like Yo except it would be called "Woof" since, you know, he's just a dog and only knows that one word.

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By noon yesterday Yo had gone viral. By 7:30 last night, when a robotic "Yo" from WorldCup informed me that a goal had been scored there were almost as many blogs citing Yo as a biblical sign of the top as there are Yo users. Fueled by envy, spite and the indefinable lack of intellectual light that shackles them to banality the blogging class had their way with this humble little App.

There are a couple points here. First is lighten up. What Yo has in common with the Internet bubble is that it's well-funded and cute. That doesn't make it a sign of anything other than that as a society we aren't dwelling on where to get our next meal. Stop being so bitter.

Finally, and here's what matters to us as investors. Yo didn't go viral because we're all idiots. Yo taps in to something that impacts us all. Marc Andreeson compared getting a Yo to missing a phone call. It's a piece of information boiled down to its most efficient essence. "Yo" is what Arbel calls "context-based communications," meaning it means different things depending on who it's from and when. In my lifetime we've gone from snail mail to answering machines to voicemails to emails to text messages. Each bit of communication is tighter than the last. If Yo can replace the 1,000 unread emails I have piled up or the voicemail box I've literally never set up then it will have served some function.

Before you dismiss Yo out of hand, think of all the time you've wasted sifting through messages that pretty much all boil down to "gotta a minute to talk?" Maybe there's a reason man's best friend only needs one noise to communicate. Maybe Yo is the new woof. Or maybe it's just a dumb app.  Either way... Yo.

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