Starting Monday, anyone can download and sign up for HalloApp in Apple’s App Store and Google Play on Android devices. There are many parallels between HalloApp and WhatsApp: the app is designed for group or individual chats with close friends and family, the only way you can find people is by knowing their phone number, the messages are encrypted, and there are no ads.
While other startups have over the years tried and failed to build successful social networks for close friends (RIP Path), the pedigree of HalloApp’s two cofounders, Neeraj Arora and Michael Donohue, makes this particular effort notable. They both worked at WhatsApp before and after Facebook bought it for $22 billion. Arora was WhatsApp’s chief business officer until 2018 and a key figure in negotiating the Facebook deal. And Donohue was WhatsApp’s engineering director for nearly nine years before he left Facebook in 2019.
Both Arora and Donohue declined to be interviewed for this story, citing a desire to avoid press attention so early in the app’s lifespan. But they did recently sit down for an interview on Christopher Lochhead’s “Follow Your Different” podcast, in which Arora said, “I think the best way to grow is to create an amazing product that people love to tell their friends and family about.”