latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-daniel-singer-backchat-app-20140121,0,4895555.story

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START-UP SPOTLIGHT

Meet the 14-year-old from Encino who created Backchat

By Andrea Chang

10:00 AM PST, January 26, 2014

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Tech entrepreneurs are known to skew young, but at 14 years old, Daniel Singer's ahead of the game.

The high school freshman at Harvard-Westlake has created YouTell, a website that enables users to solicit anonymous opinions from friends, and Backchat, an anonymous mobile messaging app.

Daniel, who says he was defragmenting his computer's hard drive when he was 4, has been focusing his attention on Backchat, which he created with his father, Uri Singer. 

Initially called Backdoor, the free app first launched on iOS and this month became available on Android devices.

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The app is designed to give users an original way to chat with their friends by masking who is sending the messages.

Backchat's online description says: "Have fun, memorable, and quirky conversations with friends, while your anonymity adds a whole new level of excitement, allowing you to get closer to your friends, and maybe, just maybe, play a prank or two."

Daniel said the app aims to "bring the magic and novelty and fun back into texting" and said users have sometimes engaged in "epic ploys" over several weeks to find out which friend they're chatting with.

Backchat, which has 125,000 users, recently raised $200,000 in a round of funding from ArpexCapital in Brazil. The company has six employees; Daniel's father, who is also a movie producer, is chief executive and Daniel does employee management "and leads the company," he said.

"It's great to be able to work with a family member," Daniel said. "We're always together, so it's a lot of brainstorming."

As a young L.A. mobile messaging app geared toward teens, Backchat has drawn some comparisons with Venice's Snapchat. But Daniel said his team doesn't "look at them necessarily as direct competitors."

"We think ephemerality and anonymity are different," he said. "I don't think we're banging heads with each other yet."

But he did manage to get one jab in. "We take security and user privacy and data very seriously here," he said. "I hope that they can do that as well."

As for whether the free app inadvertently promotes bullying because of its anonymous aspect, Singer said "we make it hard for that to happen."

"It's one on one," he said. And "you can't completely get away with it -- it's one of your Facebook friends, and you have clues which will give the other person an idea of who you are."

Singer also noted that Backchat "is just not the right platform" for bullying because the point of the app is "the reaction -- it's the laugh, it's the approval from your peers."

"We really hope our users have the best intentions," he added.

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