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Startup Vurb Adds Chat to Its Search App

WeChat dominates China with its mobile messaging hub, letting users book a taxi, order food, get shopping coupons from their favourite brands, check in for a flight, buy tickets, and pay bills – all in one integrated app. The app has 600 million active users in China and abroad. Now, mobile search startup Vurb wants to bring the all-encompassing app style to the United States with the help of Tencent, which has been a secret investor in Vurb’s $10 million makeover.

On Thursday Vurb launched a built-in messaging feature which lets users bring their friends and their apps together in one place. The app allows you to browse restaurants and movie showtimes on special cards, as well as bringing together information from top services like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, without hopping between different apps. With the new update, you can share cards with groups of friends to plan your social life more easily – there’s no need to bounce over to other messaging hubs.

In China, rather than every small business or utility getting their own standalone app, they can create lightweight ‘official accounts’ on WeChat. For users these work like adding friends on chat, but instead they deliver custom experiences like ecommerce that taps into WeChat’s mobile wallet app. Vurb founder Bobby Lo told TechCrunch that the app is working in that direction, so that eventually businesses could build official accounts in Vurb so people could order movie tickets and book reservations without ever leaving the app. WeChat has shown the power of microapps built into messaging hubs, so there’s a lot of scope for a US version. ‘There are too many apps. 1.5 million of them. 25% are never opened. There are things that shouldn’t be apps,’ said Lo. The current constellation format, where you have dozens of apps on your phone, can be a pain when you have to jump between them.

Now, when users find a card they want to share with friends, they can swipe left to bring up a list of people they can send it to with one tap. If that friend doesn’t have Vurb, they’ll receive it as an image via text message. Lo says that while there are a ton of messaging apps today based around photos and video, there’s still no easy way to organise plans.

Vurb got started in 2011 and raised $2 million in 2013. WeChat’s developer Tencent has been revealed as one of the investors, alongside CRV, Data Collective and CrunchFund. Vurb launched on iOS with a waitlist in February and was named a ‘Best New App’ by Apple. The new in-app chat could boost Vurb’s growth.

Aaron Waterhouse

Aaron is a recent English graduate from Durham University who is now working as a content writer intern. An enthusiastic traveller, he hopes to become a journalist and report from around the world. Follow him @AaronAtSMF.

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Startup Vurb Adds Chat to Its Search App Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, August 26, 2015 Rating: 5

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