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Ding Dong – under the hood of Berlin's new favourite messaging app Written by Nina Fowler on 14. January 2013

Onno Faber

Onno Faber

Ding Dong’s Onno Faber is poised to go places with his team’s new text-free messaging app, though he’s not sure yet where he and his co-founders will end up.

Ding Dong is a location-based mobile app that brings together elements of Foursquare and Facebook Poke (the old-school function, not the new app). Download the free iOS app, add a few contacts and – with just a tap and maybe a swipe – “ding” them with your name, location, the time and an optional photo.

Ding Dong

The idea for the app – which has already won quite a few fans in the Berlin startup scene – came up about a year ago and it’s now a main project, at least for Faber (pictured above). “The idea was basically a communication mechanism which is stripped down to the essence,” he says. “It’s super-simple. Grandpas can use it.” Has he tested that? “Definitely…”

Something so simple can say quite a bit. Invite someone for a drink, tell them you’re late (by showing them where you are), keep in touch with distant friends, flirt, crack a joke…

“Because the barrier is so low, it can work as an icebreaker to start something out,” Faber says. “You wouldn’t sometimes send a message – dinging is less intrusive. If somebody doesn’t respond, you don’t have the danger of getting into confrontations. Maybe you don’t have time for it, but you’re thinking of them and you want to let them know, without the emotional heaviness around it.”

Privacy is a top priority, as it should be when using location data. “We don’t upload any sensitive data to our servers. People don’t see that in the app but under the hood we’re really careful with this stuff.”

Faber and co-founders Jorn van Dijk and Leonard van Driel all hail from the Netherlands but it’s hard to say where the team is actually based. Faber’s recently been spending time in the US and Berlin (the latter a three week trip “on a hunch” that ended up becoming three months); another one of the trio is also now in Silicon Valley.

“We still have to see where we end up,” Faber says. “We don’t really care about it right now – we just go where we need to be.”

Ding Dong – VC funding is a “powerful thing”

“Where we need to be” doesn’t mean they’re on the fundraising trail just yet. So far, Ding Dong is financed by the co-founders themselves.

Faber says the typical startup-VC track – getting enough funds to build and grow fast, then nailing the profits later (or not) – is a “powerful thing”. In the end, they’ll need it, he says.

For now, though, he’s not sure the timing is right. “Everyone tells you you need to raise money, so you think you need it,” he says. “In the end, when you don’t need it, it’s worth thinking about just moving on with your own funds for some time. it gives us more like a feeling of freedom. like we don’t have to explain anything to anyone.”

They’re not looking for publicity, either. “It’s nice sometimes to have little user spikes but we’re really focused on the product.” Keep on going as they’re going, though, and we expect the publicity will find them.


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