French Startup’s Walkie-Talkie App Gains 6 Million Downloads in Less Than a Year


Less than a year after its iOS debut, the French startup ten ten has gained rapid popularity with a walkie-talkie app that enables teens to send voice messages to their close friends, even when their phones are locked.

Depending on your age, you might see this either as a potential disaster or a remarkable innovation. Teens, evidently, caught onto it well before many others did; while walkie-talkie apps aren’t a novel concept, ten ten is putting a fresh spin on it for 2024.

“We’re ephemeral by design,” noted ten ten co-founder and CEO, Jule Comar, in a written interview. In CB codes, 1010 signifies “Transmission completed, standing by,” a point Comar highlighted as just one of the many meanings that align with the company’s values. This resonance is evident as the app, which is free, continues to climb in popularity.

Ten ten’s swift rise is most notable in France, where it has amassed 1 million downloads. Including its recent Android availability, the app has achieved 6 million downloads since launch, data shared by market intelligence firm Sensor Tower with Truth Voices on Friday revealed.

The concept is still evolving. Currently, the UX suggests a limit of nine friends, though this isn’t true. “Ten ten is for close friends, but there’s no friend limit; we’re seeing users share their PINs on social media, so we’re working on a better friend management system,” Comar said.

These PINs enable users to find each other, and while the app requests access to contacts, no one is added without user consent. This model inherently promotes virality, albeit not solely; Comar credited TikTok with playing a significant part in ten ten’s growth.

ten ten screenshots 2024
Image Credits: ten ten

Unsurprisingly, ten ten’s download numbers have likely surged over the weekend, being a constant presence in French media lately. Not all coverage has been favorable; for example, the French newspaper Le Figaro described it as “worrying.” “I was very surprised,” Comar commented. “There’s nothing ‘dangerous’ about ten ten!”

Additionally, there’s been misinformation circulating, with some rumors suggesting ten ten is a Chinese app involved in spying and data theft. “We were wrongly accused of ‘spying’ and ‘stealing data’…” Comar mentioned.

Ten ten, however, is distinctly French, duly registered in France since 2021, and subject to GDPR. Its existing terms and conditions are in the process of being better defined, but the startup’s privacy policy firmly asserts two points:

  • All your conversations are ephemeral, we can’t listen to your conversation as we don’t even store them!
  • We will never sell your data!

Though the decision not to sell data is clear, how ten ten plans to monetize remains uncertain. “We have many cool ideas for monetization at a later stage,” Comar said. Their current success undoubtedly buys them time and aids in securing venture capital.

When asked whether ten ten had raised or was in the process of raising funds, Comar confirmed, adding with a smiley, “we can’t really disclose how much and [from] whom yet.”

French VC Hugo Amsellem indicated that while his firm Intuition isn’t backing ten ten, he sees it as part of a broader trend among French startups.

Amsellem believes that “France is king at status game plays,” where individuals aim to boost their social status, and French entrepreneurs support this, whether through software like BeReal, Yubo, or Zenly, or hardware with luxury devices.

While the continued coolness of ten ten remains to be seen, its CEO acknowledges their current position is both privileged and fragile. Comar stated:

It’s exhilarating, it’s a feeling that is hard to describe but that a few lucky ones have felt, it feels like everything is going so fast and so slow at the same time, adrenaline mixed with pride, gratitude, and responsibilities, you feel big and small at the same time — You can only feel this in consumer social because it can hit you when you least expect it and there’s no ceiling. But we have to keep our heads on our shoulders, it’s just the beginning, the hardest is yet to come.

Comar and ten ten co-founder and CTO Antoine Baché have had very little sleep lately. Their smiley-laden email auto-reply indicates “having issues with our servers due to a huge number of users at the same time,” and working “day and night to fix it once and for all.”

Aside from server issues, ten ten must navigate a generational gap wisely. More so than privacy concerns, the fact that the app is used by teens, including in classrooms, is frequently discussed. “When you read these articles, it feels like they’re talking about some new drug circulating in schools!” Comar said.

It’s easy to understand why teachers were the first adults to notice the app. Since ten ten can bypass a lock screen to play a message out loud, it can be employed for pranks, causing minor disruptions in classrooms. However, teaching phone etiquette isn’t new, and kids are adept at figuring it out too.

In a French subreddit for teachers, a discussion emerged about whether ten ten had caused any issues in classrooms. One participant mentioned “no major incidents so far” despite the app’s popularity at their school, adding, “I ask the students to put their phones on airplane mode.” (We haven’t verified if this participant is a teacher, but their profile suggests they are.)

Instead of sparking a new moral panic, ten ten could offer parents an opportunity to appreciate the revival of cultural artifacts, whether it’s cassettes, Dungeons & Dragons, or walkie-talkies.

With minimal distance from obsolete to vintage, and possibly aided by the popularity of ‘Stranger Things,’ app-based walkie-talkies wouldn’t gain traction without a real use case. Comar believes they have one, which motivated him.

“I’ve always had a group of close friends, we talk every day on multiple mediums, but I felt like they all had some kind of friction,” he said. “I wanted us to be able to communicate as if we were always under the same roof, like roommates: you just pop in their room when you want to say something, if their door is closed you knock, if it’s open you just talk!”

Hopefully for ten ten, parents will recognize the value in that as well. Perhaps they might even use it to announce dinner. That is, if their teen accepts them as a contact.

Anna Heim
Anna Heim
Anna is a freelance reporter, exploring SaaS and more. Former LATAM & Media Editor at The Next Web, startup founder and Sciences Po Paris alum.

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