Future-focused messaging app Incubate debuts on campus

A new messaging app allows users to send messages up to 25 years into the future.

At 3 a.m. on a summer night last year, three newborns in a house near Charlotte, North Carolina, just would not stop crying.

It was their father’s turn to get them to quiet down, and he was struggling. As soon as he got the last of them to stop crying, the din rose again. The frustrated father wished he could capture that torturous night for his triplets to see, say, 25 years later.

That was the night the idea for Incubate, a new messaging app, was born. The Charlotte father relayed his experience to a friend, Michael McCluney, who decided to create an app that would allow the user to send photos, videos and messages to other users at any date and time 25 years into the future.

McCluney, now the CEO and co-founder of Incubate, and his co-founder Kade Cullefer were surprised when they didn’t find any app-to-app “strategically-timed” messaging service on the market. So they figured, as McCluney said, “It might as well be us.”

“Incubate stands to make messaging more meaningful,” McCluney said. “It’s a digital time capsule. If a message is funny, sentimental or practical, the build-up to that message or finding that message at a specific time can make it more humorous, more sentimental or more practical.”

MU alumnus Matthew Douty, vice president of marketing for Incubate, came on board in the spring. He said college students are crucial to the success of upstart social networks and messaging apps.

“Every social media platform takes off from the college student (demographic),” Douty said. “The success in that demo could really push Incubate to unseen levels.”

The start-up, which is currently finalizing its iOS product and constructing its Android product, has designed a hub system for introducing their app to students at three universities across the country. The Atlanta-based company has brand ambassadors to help Incubate get off the ground at MU, the University of Georgia and the University of California-Los Angeles.

“We want to have a big presence at Mizzou,” McCluney said. “Campuses are where things go viral. Given the caliber of students in Missouri’s J-School, we would have been foolish not to have pursued a hub at Mizzou.”

Incubate looks to Snapchat as one of the startups in whose successful footsteps they intend to follow. Snapchat set the bar for what is successful in mobile messaging, and Douty said Incubate can attain that.

One of Incubate’s goals is to reach a seven- to eight-figure user count by 2016, Douty said. Currently, they have just under 2,000.

“In a year, I hope Incubate will be a universally accepted way of sharing memories,” Douty said. “In 10 years, I hope that the children that are in first grade now can get messages on their 16th birthday that their parents sent 10 years ago. I hope and I believe that it can and it will become a household name.”

The app is currently in a soft launch phase meant to help the final product improve. McCluney said he expects the final launch to be in early 2015.

“There’s a huge difference between an idea that people love and a product that people love,” he said. “We found the fundamental basis of what we wanted Incubate to be, we put that out there, and now we’re seeing what people want. Releasing a product that isn’t ready is the hardest thing, but we’re changing things based on in-hand feedback to make it 100 percent ready.”

Incubate is a highly versatile app, Douty said.

“The possibilities are really limitless,” he said. “We’re interested in ‘Incubating’ weddings. If you have guests sending you those memories in the future, it really adds a novelty. It can also allow a military serviceperson to send a message to their kids on their birthday or their spouse on their anniversary. That’s powerful.”

Douty believes that Incubate will become the new way to share lasting memories. He said Incubate will make captured memories more relevant and meaningful, as opposed to other applications.

“The difference between something like TimeHop and Incubate is that apps like that take the past and bring it to the present,” Douty said. “We’re taking the present and sending it to the future. And maybe it’s not even long-term memories. Maybe it’s just sending your friend a practical reminder about meeting to study. Either way, it’s a revolutionary way to communicate.”

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