Why it pays for startup founders to use iMessage blue bubbles

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iMessage
Blue bubbles good. Green bubbles bad. Or something.
Photo: Killian Bell's Peartree Productions/Cult of Mac

Considering that blue and green aren’t too far apart on the color spectrum, the difference between sending blue bubble messages and green bubble messages is pretty stark. The former, of course, means that the user is sending an iMessage, while the latter is a generic SMS, probably from an Android device.

For years, a certain segment of the population have mocked the green bubble crowd — with the gist being that a green bubble sender must have something wrong with them if they don’t own an iPhone. In a recent tweet, the CEO of a popular startup noted something else: That green bubble startup founders may have a tougher time landing investment.

“Unfortunate reality: if you don’t have iMessage, you are less likely to succeed at work,” Joshua Browder, the CEO of legal tech firm DoNotPaytweeted this week. “The blue bubbles build trust!”

In a tweet thread, another user commented that this is particularly true when it comes to seeking venture capital investment. “Agreed,” wrote Browder. “That was my original tweet, but wanted to broaden the audience!”

All about trust, apparently

Could it be that venture capitalists are just really snobby about the phones used by the founders they choose to invest in? It’s quite possible. It’s also possible that it’s a variation on the classic Van Halen rider test. Simply put, if the people you choose to work with sweat the small stuff — in this case, by choosing the best smartphone on the market — they might be discerning enough to depend upon.

Cult of Mac reached out to Browder, who elaborated on his trust thesis. “Over the past few years, spam robo-texts — through green bubbles — have bothered me constantly,” he answered. “When I see a blue iMessage, I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the sender is real. Beyond that, the ability to react to messages — e.g ‘love’ a text –, typing indicators, and voice memos creates a sense of trust between the parties texting. I have seen firsthand how this improved trust can lead to people being more successful at work.”

Browder noted that early stage conversations with investors regularly happen via text, often coming from mutual connections. “In a world where it’s hard to build trust, something like read receipts, typing indicators and reactions can sway something over the line,” he said.

While cross-platform messaging app WhatsApp offers some of these features, Browder said introductions still frequently happen via text since not everyone uses WhatsApp.

“I think there is one more important factor,” Browder continued. “When I see a green bubble, I think the sender could be using Google Voice or a VOIP service, so they could be hiding their true number…. This perceived lack of trust on the sending end also leads to a lack of trust on the receiving end.”

A matter of green vs. blue

It might be unfair, but it’s an intriguing example of how assumptions based on a a tiny piece of tech could, potentially, have much bigger ramifications.

Apple gets a boost from this, of course. It currently has more than a billion iPhones in its texting ecosystem. And Apple’s well aware of what iMessage means to its brand, and why it would be a bad move to offer iMessage on non-Apple platforms.

A 2016 email published during the current Epic Games v. Apple court case saw an unnamed Apple employee email Phil Schiller, Apple’s former senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, to complain that iMessage meant “serious lock-in” for iOS users.

Schiller responded: “Moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us, this email illustrates why.”

Apple probably isn’t making its interface decisions based on a handful of founders raising series-A funding for their startups. But the notion that iMessage confers a level of respectability and prestige, like having an office on a well-known upmarket street, most certainly matters in all walks of life. And Apple knows it. No matter how much the likes of Samsung may occasionally try and change the public perception.

Have you experienced any of the ramifications of blue versus green bubbles in any walk of life? Let us know in the comments below.