It looks like OpenAI’s Chat GPT alliance with Bing won’t be the only threat to Google’s search business model going forward. With the release of the WhatsApp Business app (WAB), Meta is essentially building a kind of rival search engine to Google to keep us all within the app. While this may not be too much of a concern to US businesses – where iMessage retains the lion’s share of messaging habits – in Europe and much of the “rest of the world”, WhatsApp has displaced many other types of messaging due to its efficient use of data across even the thinnest mobile networks.
For example, the UK has the third most WhatsApp users in Europe at 40.41 million, and it is the most used chat app in the UK. About 75% of 16 to 64 year olds use it.
In November last year, Mark Zuckerberg launched the WhatsApp Business Directory feature. This outlined its future, with in-app purchases and WhatsApp Business pages. These are mini websites in every way, in a way. That’s a problem for Google.
So what are the implications? Simply put, if companies are increasingly finding that they also need a “shop window” in WhatsApp – and assuming they’re not that advanced in knowing how to use the API, they’ll need a new phone number. And it’s fair to say that most people prefer messaging over calling when communicating with companies.
This is then used to create a unique ID for the WhatsApp Business app. At this point, many small businesses often face a dilemma: they realize they need a second number (usually on a different handset). This means they have to dial a second number through a website, a second number through an app, get a second number through a mobile telco, or a dual SIM/eSIM, which can be expensive and hassle-free.
This is when all they really need is that unique ID that allows them to use WAB on their own phone. Realizing that all small businesses wanted was to tackle this pain point, here’s what British startup YourBusinessNumber wanted to do in 2021.
It has developed its own unique – it claims – internal tools to ensure that the UID is verified by WhatsApp Business and that the connection is made between a small business owner’s personal number and their new WAB number (the cost is only £4.99 per month). This way, the small business owner can still run his business from his own phone, without having to provide his personal number.
YourBusinessNumber extracts data, minutes, texts and usage of apps or VOIP and only provides the UID. It does this by accessing the cheapest mobile/mobile numbers available in every market with the thinnest telecom offering. It also disconnects WhatsApp if the company fails to pay or violates WhatsApp’s terms and conditions, slowing down spammers and defaulters. It has now launched a Google Play Store app to facilitate the service.
While networks can charge £25-100 a month for traditional commercial contracts, YourBusinessNumber’s much lower rates seem to give it a competitive edge.
The platform enables companies to receive OTP/SMS and calls and also offers a team solution so that employees can also receive WAB messages without revealing their phone number. Growth areas for YBN include real estate agents, recruitment and hospitality.
Co-founder George Lineker said in a statement: “We are the fastest, easiest, cost-effective solution on the market and growing at 30% MoM. We are live in the UK and US and have big global plans to solve this problem for others.
Founders Lineker and Sebastian Lewis have so far raised seed money for the startup, which is now sold in more than 50 countries, including the US, and plans to move to Brazil, India, the Philippines and Germany. Launched in June 2021, the startup recently raised £450,000, bringing its total proceeds to almost £1 million. Seed investors include Edward Woodward (Ex Man UTD) and English football legend Gary Lineker (father of George).
During a phone call, Lewis told me, “We spent a lot of time and money developing an internal system that checks whether the customer is verified. That’s our unique IP address, and we assume we’ll get most people verified on WhatsApp business, rather than someone just going out on the street and buying a phone number and trying to do it themselves.”
Given that YourBusinessNumber has little to halt its growth, it’s yet another indication that WhatsApp is about to create a plethora of other services (when will a ChatGPT-like service emerge, I wonder?) that Google with yet another potentially major headache.