The first time I used Wakie – an app that connects strangers around the world for short, free, internet-enabled voice chats — I got a polite, friendly, well-spoken Indian man on the other end of the phone, who says that he uses the app to practice his English and for fun.
For a journalist, it became a perfect, quick form of conducting some research – almost like the Google of voice chats.
I asked him a few questions about how long he’d been using the service (a few months) and how he felt towards it (positive); we talked a little about our two cities, and then the call disconnected.
The second trial was less informative, but more fun: a gaggle of teenagers were laughing and shouting into the phone.
Wakie was first launched in 2014 as the international version of a Russian wake-up call service called Budist, which helped people get up in the morning by replacing a regular alarm with a call from another (unpaid) user. The idea was that the person could offer motivation, encouragement, or simply yell at you to get out of bed.
You can still use the app in that way, and it does help to jolt you awake. It turned out most users might enjoy the novelty of a human alarm clock for a few days, but it became a little intense for every morning.
So the product was reimagined as “a friendly community of people who help each other by sharing their own life experience and zest for life”.
You can choose from options like “tell me about your country” and “I have a problem but my friends and family don’t understand me”, but of course conversations are likely to go off-piste.
There is the possibility of using the calls for some quick market research or audience testing. This would be enhanced if it were possible to choose the region or country in which your conversation partner was living, but instead the app connects you to whoever is available, no matter where they are. It may not be as useful, but it has a certain serendipitous charm.
q&a ask and you’ll find an answer
Tatul Ajamyan, cofounder and chief executive of Wakie, tells Jessica Holland more about the “alarm clock” app:
Why might a business executive use Wakie?
Business executives, like myself, are also human; we also need to discuss some topics which bother us and we also don’t know appropriate people for that sometimes. In terms of business-related questions, there will also be a lot of use cases. For example if some of our UAE users want to launch a company in the US, [the app] could help them.
So do you have specific conversation topics for business queries?
At this point we have limited the number of topics that can be discussed but we will launch the next version where you can ask any question you might have and we will find an appropriate conversation partner in a few seconds.
Do you have many users in the UAE?
The UAE is a unique country for Wakie; we see the most engaged user base there. On average our UAE users make more calls than others and we love that so much. I hope we will soon be able to deliver more localised products soon, and an Arabic version of the app.
What were you doing before you launched this app?
I founded this company with my brother Hrachik. We were born in Armenia and started our first company, a web design studio, in 2002 at the ages of 16 and 19. Then we both worked for bigger companies. Hrachik was more into IT; he was the CEO of the first social network in Russia. I had experience in consulting and investment banking.
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