When iOS 8 first became available a few months ago, there was a ton of excitement around custom keyboards being added to Apple’s mobile OS. A number of startups have introduced new ways for users to express themselves since then, but one of the most interesting is Riffsy, which has built a keyboard that makes it easy for users to insert animated GIFs to their conversations.
Now, just about six weeks after the launch of its keyboard app, Riffsy is announcing it has raised $3.5 million in seed funding led by Redpoint Ventures. Other investors in the company include Initial Capital and John Riccitiello.
Instead of using traditional emoji to express their feelings, Riffsy’s keyboard is designed to allow users to copy and paste a wide range of images and videos into conversations with friends and contacts. It offers up a wide variety of media assets, all of which are categorized to make them easy to search and discover based on hashtag.
According to founder David McIntosh, Riffsy has hundreds of thousands of GIFs and videos available to choose from and insert inline directly into conversations users are having via text, iMessage, Twitter and email. They are available thanks to the release last year of its GIF creation app and a large community of users that have added and categorized a database of animated images and videos.
The process of installing custom keyboards on iOS still feels a bit like a hack, but that’s not keeping Riffsy users from downloading, installing, and heavily using its GIF keyboard.
“In general, we’ve been really impressed by the install rate, ” McIntosh said. “Nearly everyone who downloads the app gets it installed.” He attributes that to the number of users who learned how to install the emoji keyboard on iOS devices. “You had 100 million people trained on how to install emoji, and those people were used to switching between the QWERTY keyboard and emoji keyboard,” he said.
In its first three weeks, the app had been download more than a million times, and McIntosh says the majority of users had installed it as an alternative to plain text and emoji in their keyboard section. Early users are also highly engaged — once installed, users keep coming back to Riffsy’s GIF keyboard, opening it nine times a day on average and sharing more than five GIFs every 24 hours.
So if Step 1 was getting users to submit animated images via the Riffsy GIF creation app, and Step 2 was getting users to download and use its GID keyboard, what is the Step 3 that will ultimately lead Riffsy to PROFIT?
For its keyboard app, there are a number of ways it could seek to make money. That includes offering up branded images from content providers it partners with that users could share with each other. McIntosh noted that Riffsy did a promotion during the World Series to offer up images San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals fans could share with each other, and sees other opportunities to do similar campaigns with other content providers.
“The keyboard is ground zero for sharing,” he said. “We think there are distribution opportunities to help users engage around content in that way… If you’re driving audience to certain content, you can monetize that.”
For now though, the company is mainly just focused on driving more installs. Considering how addictive sharing animated GIFs can be, that shouldn’t be a problem.