Amidst the global craze of social media apps, like TikTok and Snapchat, Rooit, a Taiwan-based gamified chat app powered by AI technology, is on a mission to empower young people with warmer and more meaningful conversations. The team consists of a group of product designers, engineers, and UX/UI professionals. In the team, there’s one person who is extremely passionate about helping people communicate and pioneering the mission to bring together people through chat. She is Elsa, COO of Rooit.
It is undeniable that chat and dating apps have become as important as social media in our daily lives, especially for teenagers - or let’s say Gen Z, a generation which consists of those born in 1995 or later and spent most of their time online, chatting, making friends but have never met in real life.
Other than tons of general apps we’ve seen before, Rooit has a clear mission: “We are a platform where young people who are not adept at expressing themselves, can do so through the facilitation mechanism in different chat rooms in this app,” says Elsa. She also told us, the original idea actually stems from Paul & Peter, the other 2 co-founders of Rooit.
“As to the founding story, I found it truly beautiful. My co-founders Paul & Peter, they are more introverted and have interesting thoughts & opinions, but they’re not the ones who are on the stage and expressing themselves especially in bigger social settings. They tend to shy away. So they basically built Rooit for themselves! “ Elsa explains.
That’s why the idea of Rooit came up - a gamified chat app with different chat rooms tailored to user’s preferences. Currently, the app has 7 Chinese language chat rooms including Soul Lounge, which is the most popular one; Love Temple (月老廟) for those who are searching for love, and Church, where we can find a “Priest and Sinner” role-play setting inside of it.
AI, Chatbot & Tailored content as features to engage the users
Powered by AI, every chat room has a chatbot personality that can help facilitate and move the conversation along. The chatbot will notice when the atmosphere is getting awkward, and will randomly bring up topics that users might be interested in or get them to play games to break the ice.
The app gained 120K active users within the first month of their launch in 2018. without marketing.
Relying on very bespoke and tailored content, as well as a smarter user interface, Rooit makes everything perfect for the audience. “That’s really the beauty of Rooit’s product, and that’s also the core of how we can globalize in the future.” says Elsa.
Upon the release of the US (English) version, the app surprisingly gained organic traffic with high user retention in a larger, yet much more competitive market.
“I would say: We’re weird enough,” Elsa replied in a prideful tone. “I think to stand out among the US audience, you gotta be weird enough to grasp their attention - what’s weird about us is that we have special features in our chat rooms that you probably won’t see anywhere else.
For example, our church room is only open on Sunday. You go in, you’re greeted by a chatbot called Priest. You won’t see a Priest chatbot anywhere right now in other apps. So it’s like role-playing. You can either role-play as a ‘Father’ or as a sinner.”
“Given highly tailored, customized and localized content, Rooit succeeds in grabbing attention to grow in Taiwan and in other markets.” — Elsa
A chat app especially caters to Generation “Z”
Targeting an ever increasing group of young people spending over 60% of time online, let’s say “Gen Z”, the team actually didn’t know exactly who their audience was when they initially launched the product. “We were not specific to which age group and which gender initially. We just threw our minimum viable product on the app store and see if it worked.“ After a few months of collecting feedback from users and conducting thorough market research, they surprisingly found that Gen Z was always the most loyal audience of the app.
“Gen Z spends a lot more time behind the screen. And not interacting in real life,” says Elsa. “As we go younger in generation, we see more of a remote working culture. Lots of people make friends on Twitter, but they might never have met them in real life. Here’s a crazy stat: we have 16% of teenagers globally who make friends online, and only 20% who have ever met them in real life. That’s Gen Z.”
Live streaming, real-time interaction is what Gen Z is up for
As we may notice, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are the most popular platforms among Millennials. However, according to Elsa, Millennials tend to passively consume content, whereas Gen Z looks for something beyond that.
“Gen Z demands live, real-time interaction. That is why apps like Tiktok, Amino, and Discord are so popular with this generation. That is also the main reason why Gen Z loves Rooit - we provide on-demand live matching,” Elsa elaborates.
User experience is the Key, compared to AI
When it comes to Rooit’s startup journey, Elsa admitted that there are constantly a million tough things and lessons learned as their product evolves.
“A very constructive learning, is the fact that, AI is not as important as user experience.” — Elsa
Deeply rooted in UI/UX design, Rooit believes it is essential is to onboard the users effectively and keep them coming back. The product team puts much more effort on optimizing the app, adding more special features, as well as correcting bugs. All Rooit is doing is to ensure the user’s journey runs smoothly. This is the secret behind the app’s continuous growing retention.
For Elsa, AI is merely a tool to leverage information about the user journey with machine learning and the algorithm. This information is used to understand about user’s behavior. However, “When you’re just a consumer trying to have a good time online and trying to chat, you’re not as concerned with AI technology,” For Rooit, the consumer’s happiness is most important.
Conversational advertising, how does it work?
An experience you might encounter: When you’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed, an ad pops up saying if you wanna buy this or you’re thinking about planning your pregnancy or something. You can tell that advertiser only chose sex, age and location, some may depends on your browsing history. They don’t even know if this is an ad that you’re going to appreciate.
Deeply diving into this pain point for both users and advertisers, Rooit smartly uses chatbot as an ad influencer.
“The beauty of chat commerce/conversational advertising is not annoying,” says Elsa.
“For example, in our Christmas campaign chat room, there are so many opportunities for that (Ads) and users actually appreciate it. They can either go offline and buy the person a gift or from the integrated e-commerce platform in the Rooit chat room, so they don’t have to leave the house. Within the chat room, they can send the gift to the person. So it’s a win-win situation, for both advertiser and our end users.” Elsa explains.
Delve into the chat & dating app landscape
Chat apps are increasingly more competitive, especially in two countries. The first is the US, and the second is China. Having focused on the Taiwan market, the team sees a huge opportunity in the US market.
“US Gen Z kids are kind of a trendsetter. If an app is doing well in the US, it has a Halo effect all over the world.” Initially launched the english version all over the world including the Philippines, India, Singapore, US, and a couple of European countries, they found the US market is quite immense and mature where there are tons of opportunities and players out there.
Tackling a new market
Next on, Rooit is creating a brand new version that is more tailored to the US market and trying to make it resonate with local users. For Elsa and her team, their exciting journey ahead is to tackle a much bigger and more competitive market, but the company’s mission remains unchanged.
“Our goal is to empower users to find confidants and make friends through meaningful conversation,” she says, “This is what is Rooit built for.”
Some fun facts about …
STARTUP SNAPSHOT is a interview series dedicated to spotlight inspiring SLX startup stories within taiwan startup scene. With a collective of like-minded people that are sharing their passion, struggles, as well as drive for entrepreneurship, we aim to tap into the innovative lifeblood of ecosystem and get TW startups ready to take the global stage.