From saucy sexts to LOLs, people send and receive millions of texts every month and sometimes those messages capture a digital record of a budding romance. That’s why Tyler Barnet wants to make sure you can hold on to the texts that really matter forever. Barnet’s come up with a way to help you take them from your phone and transform them into a book.
“People are starved for nostalgia. With over 6 billion texts and photos sent each day, a text-message book is the modern-day autobiography, diary and love letter,” said Barnet.
CNBC gave Barnet 60 seconds to convince a panel of experts his idea to turn texts into books is a real moneymaker. Click on the video to see his Power Pitch and judge for yourself.
Once upon a text…
Three years ago Tyler Barnet wanted to give his boyfriend the perfect anniversary present. To him, that gift was transforming the first texts they’d ever sent each other and thousands more that went back and forth over the next three months of their relationship into a book, but he said it wasn’t easy.
Barnet told CNBC he spent an entire month painstakingly picking out the messages he wanted to include and then converting them into a storybook he could print and bind.
“It was a nightmare, but the book was an anniversary present and important to me,” Barnet told CNBC.
When he finally gave his boyfriend Scott the book, Barnet said it brought him to tears. The gift went over so well the couple decided to start txt-book.com, which set out to make the text-to-book conversion a lot easier for others.
Monetizing the message
Txt-book works very differently depending on the smartphone a user owns.
Android (GOOG) users who download txt-book’s free app can select which texts and photos they want to include and the app will reformat them for printing on a paper. For $.99 users can get the file as a PDF and print it themselves.
The company’s website offers do-it-yourself binding supplies ranging from $5 to $39. For a more professional look users can have their PDF printed in soft or hardcover by txt-book’s partner Blurb, a third-party online publisher. The price of the pro look starts at $12.99 and can go up to over $100 depending on quality, and number of pages.
iPhone (AAPL) users get all the same printing options but Barnet admits the txt-book process is more complicated for apple users. With no txt-book app to simplify the process, iPhone users are required to send the company a backup of their entire phone plus a date range for the text conversation they want turned into a PDF. The iPhone service takes one to three days and costs $48. As for the iPhone backup file users send in, the company website states, “The file will be purged once your txt-book is complete.”
CNBC technology contributor and Power Pitch panelist Natali Morris asked, “Is there a concern about maybe one of the digital printing companies doing something like this once this [Txt-book] takes off?”
Barnet responded: “My answer is why haven't they? We worked with leading development companies, who told us that this could not be done, that it was impossible to transform your text-message conversations.”
CNBC Power Pitch host Mandy Drury expressed serious concerns about privacy and the fact that users have to give the company access to personal text messages.
Barnet explained that the Android app processes a user’s text messages locally on his or her smartphone. “You don’t even need to be connected to the Internet to produce your book."
“Once you have the app on your phone, the book is on your phone and you can share it with nobody if you’d like,” he said.
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Since its launch in 2013, Barnet told CNBC txt-book has produced 6,000 books.
NEA partner and Power Pitch panelist Patrick Chung asked, “Won't there be a chilling effect on text messages?”
Barnet responded, “I think people want to see their lives again. And without txt-book, you know, those 13 trillion texts are going to vaporize.”
Barnet and his co-founder, Scott Kochlefl, run the bootstrap operation from their apartment in New York, “Made by two guys on a sofa in NYC” is how it’s worded on their website.
The mostly self-funded start-up has raised $75,000. Barnet told CNBC: “We are looking for funding to support the expansion of the iPhone txt-book service into a self-service portal. As well as to grow the platform to support whatsapp.”
Barnet and Kochlefl are also the co-founders of SoANNoYING, a free app “for everything that bugs you.”
See Tyler Barnet #powerpitch his site, txt-book.com@TextMessageBook to panelists Patrick Chung @patrickchung, a partner with NEA @NEAVC, CNBC technology contributor @NataliMorris, and CNBC Host Mandy Drury @CNBCMandy.
—Additional reporting by Erin Barry and Ray Parisi
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