Chestnote: the slow-messaging app breaking the barriers of time and space

More than sharing messages, we are enabling users to share experiences.

“More than sharing messages, we are enabling users to share experiences.”

This is how Peter Wellens explains his and Tom Le Clef’s novelty app, Chestnote, which allows users to schedule messages based on time and/or location. This imec start-up launched its app on the App Store and Google Play on July 14th and already has downloads in over 25 countries, with an average of 4000 active users per month.

Sending messages that really matter

Imagine you want to leave a message to your child, so that they can only read it on their 18th birthday; or make a big romantic gesture to impress your spouse on your wedding anniversary, leading them to the place where you first met with nothing but a short, enticing note and Google Maps directions on their phone.

These are only some of the possibilities offered by Chestnote, the free, slow-messaging app that empowers users to control when and where their message will be received. After creating their message – which can be plain text or include graphic, audio or video content – the user can set their message to only be unlocked by the receiver at a certain time and/or location. After submitting the message, the recipient immediately gets a notification, indicating when and/or where the Chestnote message can be read. The sender can also choose to include a small teaser, to trigger the other person to unlock the content.

Another important feature is the possibility to connect users with their favourite brands. The start-up is already working with several partners, including Cirque du Soleil, PokémonGo België and cities such as Antwerp or Knokke-Heist. Chestnote offers brands the possibility to create and maintain strong, meaningful relations with their fans. Through the app, they can provide users unique experiences and gifts, only unlocked at certain stores or sites, triggering them to actively engage with the brands.

The power of delayed gratification

In the age of instant messaging, building an app that forces the user to wait or move in order to receive a message could be considered imprudent. Tom and Peter were aware of the risks, but also confident in the app’s potential.

“The layout and usability of the app are similar to other messaging tools. It’s the way you experience the content that is different”, explains Peter Wellens. “What makes Chestnote unique is that the context – the specific time or place – matters as much as the content itself, it becomes part of the message. In the end, more than sharing messages, we are enabling users to share experiences. That’s the magic of it.”

And numbers can account for the app’s success. Launched on the App Store and Google Play on July 14th, Chestnote users have already sent over 60.000 messages in 25 countries, with an average of 4000 active users per month.

The story behind the idea

The idea for Chestnote first popped into Tom’s mind when he was recording a video for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and two family friends passed away before he could get them on camera. He later pitched the idea to Peter, who was instantly intrigued by the concept. They started brainstorming ideas for features and functionalities and eventually decided to take the project forward.

The development of the app started in July 2015 through an outsourced company, since none of the founders has experience in IT. They later brought Wouter Wouters on board as responsible for the app’s development, who is now “a vital part of the team”, according to Peter. Both entrepreneurs hope to soon be able to hire more people to help the app (and the company) succeed and grow.

The first believers

In the market just over a year ago, Chestnote already secured funding from two investors, including imec, after the start-up was accepted in the iStart Business Incubation Program in early 2016.

"We saw great potential in Chestnote”, says Sven De Cleyn, Director of the iStart program. “Product-wise, their slow-messaging app stands out from other similar apps by its non-instant character. It makes messaging fun and exciting by giving users something to look forward to. Moreover, the team has a great drive to make things happen. They take our advice to heart and have already managed to attract interest from very interesting brands and partners."

Both founders praise the quality of the iStart program, highlighting the credibility that the start-up gains, as well as the good balance between the moments for trainings/workshops and the necessary time to focus on product and business development.

Taking it step-by-step

The founders’ priority is now to secure a new round of funding, which will influence the start-up’s short and long-term plans.

“We are looking to expand our team”, says Tom Le Clef. "However, we first want to make sure that we’ll be able to keep these people in the long term, so securing funding is crucial. It’s important for us that whomever we hire feels they have a place to grow in Chestnote. We’re not just looking for employees, we want to build a real community.”

The two entrepreneurs are also looking forward to start adding more features in the app, some of which are already in the pipeline for the upcoming months. However, they want to fine-tune the current product and make sure it’s in an optimal stage before increasing its complexity.

“One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a start-up is scaling up before you’re ready”, concludes Tom.


Company Name: Chestnote

Founders: Tom Le Clef / Peter Wellens

Team (September 2016): 4

imec support: iStart Business Incubation Program

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