Teens are downloading Jott like crazy

NEW YORK -- If you haven't heard of Jott, go ask a teenager.

A white-hot new app for instant messaging, Jott has nearly 500,000 monthly users and one million app installs after just three months on the market.

You might think there's no need for yet another messaging app. But, Jared Allgood, CEO and co-founder of Jott, said 31% of U.S. teens don't have text messaging abilities at school.

His company, Juxta Labs, interviewed 350 junior high and high school students and found that teens send 50% of their text messages during school hours -- but many are getting left out of the conversation because they don't have cell phones.

"There's a group of kids whose primary device is an iPod or iPad," Allgood said. "They have no cellular plan, no data plan and most public schools don't provide Wi-Fi access. Essentially, those are kids who show up to school with a dead device."

The solution: Jott.

The app's AirChat feature allows users to send data and texts without a connection to the Internet. Jott uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios to create a closed network with other devices that are within 100-feet of each other.

Jott also features social media must-haves, including stickers, screen shot detection, disappearing texts and photos. The app also offers advanced security measures. Unlike YikYak, another popular messaging app for teens, Jott users have to provide their real names, birth dates, phone numbers or e-mails and location to gain access to a school network.

"Teens are really interested in owning their privacy," said Jayson Ahlstrom, Jott's COO and co-founder. "So we give them a level of comfort that what you say is in your control. And you don't have to fear what's going to happen after you hit send."

The app has clearly struck a chord with school-age kids. Virtually the entire customer base for Jott is made up of 13 to 18 year olds.

That was intentional: Allgood and Ahlstrom, who both have middle school kids, zeroed in on a young market after gaining an audience of 7 million teenagers who were downloading their company's mobile games. They also built the Yearbook app on Facebook in 2009, which sold to Classmates.com after reaching 40 million users.

"Our focus is the kids, they're the ones we're building this for," Allgood said. "They love it, they use it and we have many school networks where we see Jott go viral."

The app's creators say Jott is used by 80% of students at some schools.

"It's being shared from school to school," said Ahlstrom. "We see kids are naturally sharing the app and getting their friends to use it."

That success helped Jott close a $1.8 million seed funding round from several prominent venture capital firms.

In the future, Allgood believes that Jott could be used for more than just teen texting, envisioning it as a potential life-saver during a natural disaster.

Although it wasn't built specifically for emergency communication, the founders say it could easily be adapted for that purpose.

"When cell phone towers go down and your texts no longer work, Jott messages will get routed through because it's devised through the device," Allgood explained. "You could be on top of Mount Everest or on an airplane completely disconnected and yet still be able to send text messages."