SocialDial was a simple idea: an app that would call contacts through their LinkedIn profiles, without users having to know the phone number. But a few months and 50,000 downloads after the app's 2011 launch, SocialDial co-founder Randy Adams and his partners realized that a group-calling option that was "buried under two or three layers of menus" was being used far more than any other feature.
The popularity of that feature led the team to ditch the original service and launch CrowdCall, a specialized conference-calling app available for iOS and Android smartphones and the web. Instead of scheduling a dial-in line, e-mailing all parties involved and then hoping everyone calls at the appointed time, CrowdCall's interface lets users choose up to 20 participants from their contacts list and LinkedIn connections and dial them immediately (assuming the contacts have added their phone number to their LinkedIn profiles). When participants answer, they simply push "1" to enter the conference--they don't even need to have the app to participate.
The pivot worked. Approximately three months after the mobile launch last spring, roughly 100,000 people were using the app on a weekly basis. The majority of users were taking advantage of the free version (limited to 500 minutes per month). Revenue from sales of premium versions--priced at $9.99 for 1,000 minutes per month; $49.99 for 10,000 minutes; or $99.99 for unlimited calling--reached nearly $100,000 about four months after launch. Adams' CrowdCall is now used for some 30,000 calls in the U.S. per month.
The app has a mix of commercial and consumer users, but one feature in particular makes it attractive to small businesses. Because the call originator controls invitations, unauthorized participants can't use dial-in information to access the call, providing a measure of security when discussing sensitive information.
Word-of-mouth has been the app's growth driver--each time someone receives a CrowdCall, that person become a potential customer. "We haven't spent a dime trying to acquire users," Adams says.
So far the company has raised more than $1 million to launch the app and is working on acquiring $5 million in venture funding, which it hopes to close by the end of the year. That money will be used to build out infrastructure, including an investment in servers to better handle overwhelming demand.
Sounds like a good call.