San Diego Business Journal

BY JOYCE THORNE

San Diego's Globaltel Media had something to crow about as it launched Cherple , which allows two-way text chats between online computers and cellular devices , at the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month.

Cherple, a play on the word "chirp" with a bird head as its logo, is touted as a powerful way to chat from any online computer user anywhere in the world to any cellular phone in the U.S. free of charge. Normal text messaging rates apply, but there is no cost to the computer user who initiates the conversation.

Registration is requested, but not required, to use the software. The PC user starts a conversation by entering a user name and phone number into the application and within seconds, a two-way link opens between the user and mobile handset.

The patented technology can be used online at its Web site, cherple.com, or downloaded onto Microsoft Windows or Apple Macintosh computers free of charge.

The current version supports MySpace personal Web pages using widgets.

Future releases will include versions for Linux computers and allow integration into Facebook pages.

Receptive Audience

Within a week after the software's year-end pre-release, more than 260,000 hits were logged on Cherple.com, President and CEO Robert Sanchez said.

He also said during the same period, 35,000 blogs, articles and references related to Cherple were listed on Google.

Cherple was soft-launched with key partners in November and claims more than 2 million users, according to Sanchez.

Globaltel declined to disclose revenues or financial information.

Cherple has only been in development for about six months, said spokesman Michael Simms.

"We targeted tech bloggers first (to get the word out)," said Simms. "That's when it really took off, spreading the word virally."

He noted that traditional media outlets such as The Wa & #173;shing & #173;ton Post picked up on Cherple from the blogosphere.

The average teen sends or receives more than 1,700 text messages a month, compared to 230 phone calls sent or received a month. Text messaging has increased 450 percent since 2006 and nearly 3 trillion text messages were sent last year alone, according to Sanchez.

Sanchez uses his son, wearing a Cherple logo bird head, to market the service on YouTube. He can be seen checking out an exotic car at CES, going on a date in Las Vegas and eating at various restaurants.

Emergency Uses

Sanchez turned to more serious conversation at the CES booth, explaining how Cherple can be used in emergency situations.

He said the application could have been helpful during the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting so that students, parents and administrators could have better communicated with each other. Sanchez said a nephew was attending the university at the time and lost several classmates in the tragedy.

Cherple's technology is available for licensing to businesses, government organizations and nonprofit agencies, who can put their brands on the application, along with their logos.

Sanchez, the top executive at Globaltel for two years, was previously an executive with inCode Wireless, a San Diego consulting firm he co-founded in 1998.

At inCode, he developed telecommunication technologies and managed operations of the company's wireless technology lab.

The company was sold to VeriSign for $52 million in 2006.

Sanchez also worked at Qualcomm and TRW, where he managed development and testing of a number of programs for civilian and military applications.

Joyce Thorne is a freelance writer for the Business Journal.