Holler, described by founder and CEO Travis Montaque as “a conversational media company,” just announced that it’s raised $36 million in Series B funding.
You may not know what conversational media is, but there’s a decent chance you’ve used Holler’s technology. For example, if you’ve added a sticker or a GIF to your Venmo payments, Holler actually manages the app’s search and suggestion experience around that media. (You may notice a little “powered by Holler” identifier at the bottom of the window.)
Montaque told me the company started out initially as a news and video content app before focusing on messaging in 2016. Messaging, he argued, is “the most important experience for people online,” since “it’s where we communicate with the people who are closest to us.”
He continued, “It seemed bizarre that we haven’t seen much innovation in the text messaging experience since the first text message was sent in 1992.” So Holler works with partners like PayPal-owned Venmo and The Meet Group to bring more compelling content into the messaging side of their apps — or as Montaque put it, the startup aims to “enrich conversations everywhere.”
There’s both an art and a science to this, he said. The art involves creating and curating the best stickers and GIFs. At the same time, the science takes the form of Holler’s Suggestion AI technology, which will recommend the right content based on the user’s conversations and contexts — the stickers and GIFs you want to send in a dating app are probably different from what you’d send in a work-related chat. Montaque said that this context-focused approach allows the company to provide intelligent recommendations in a way that also respects user privacy.
“I believe that the future is context, not identity,” he said. “Because I don’t really need to know about Anthony. I just need to know someone needs lunch. If I know you’re in the mood for Mexican food, I don’t need to know every aspect of the last 10 times you went to a Mexican restaurant.”