It’s a very satisfying thing to see something through from launch to successful completion, whether it’s a campaign, a magazine, a novel or just decorating a room. When that something is the sale of a start-up with a cool idea to a global technology giant, it’s more satisfying still.
Not that we are in any way involved with the auto-typing app SwiftKey, which has sold today to Microsoft for (according to the FT), $250m ($174m). And yes, the wags at the back of the room, we hear your joke, asking if becoming part of Microsoft can really be considered a success.
But from the moment the company entered its app into our Effective Mobile Marketing Awards in their debut year, 2010, we were taken by sheer brilliance, and efficiency of the app. By learning the phrases and sentences you tend to use, SwiftKey predicts what word you are likely to be planning to type next. If it gets it right, which in my experience it does more often than not, all you need to do to select it is to hit the space bar.
As a result, it becomes a fantastic, time-saving productivity tool for composing lengthy texts and emails on your phone. To the point where, on more than one occasion, I’ve somehow managed to delete an email of, say 100 words, and recreate it with a couple of taps on the keyboard to start typing the first word, and then 99 more on the space bar to auto-complete the rest of the email.
In fact, I can honestly say that SwiftKey was the main reason I stuck with Android when all (or quite a few) around me were going over to the iOS side, because up until a couple of years ago, Apple would not allow the app on its handsets, not liking the idea of ceding control of a key function of the handset – text input – to a third party. Eventually, a couple of years ago, even Apple saw the light and relented.
In fact, SwiftKey is now on around 300m Android and iOS devices, and the company estimates that since its launch, its users have saved almost 10 trillion keystrokes, across 100 languages, saving more than 100,000 years in combined typing time. No surprise then, that even in its first year, our Awards judges saw enough to give it the awards for Most Effective Mobile App.
That award, in fact, is one of the reasons why I feel SwiftKey’s joy on the sale, because at a competition for start-ups we ran a couple of years ago in Barcelona, SwiftKey CMO Joe Braidwood gave a brief speech to the contestants, in which he said that winning our award, so early in SwiftKey’s life, was a major factor in the success it had enjoyed since. SwiftKey milked the award for all it was worth, and rightly so. I hope that going forward, Microsoft realises what it’s bought and continues to let SwiftKey act like a start-up, and isn’t tempted to strangle the creativity and innovation it bought it for.