Game-Changing VC Backs “Dumbphone” Social Enterprise Startup

Game-Changing VC Backs “Dumbphone” Social Enterprise Startup

Text Engine, a social enterprise startup launched in 2014, announced it has received a substantial financial investment from Backstage Capital, a new venture fund backing startups led by underrepresented founders.

Text Engine is one of the most recent recipients of investment from Backstage Capital, a fund which is striving to diversify the demographics of venture capital funds. Backstage Capital’s principal, Arlan Hamilton, said her fund is primarily focused on backing underrepresented startups – those with Black, Latino, female, or LGBT founders.

“Arlan is a visionary in the venture capital arena,” said Eric Bryant, CEO of Text Engine. “She not only supports, she inspires. I’m honored to be working with her.”

“I was impressed by Eric’s ability to tackle this huge project with very few resources, and look forward to seeing what great strides the company makes over time with our cash infusion,” Hamilton said. “I’m proud that Text Engine is one of Backstage Capital’s first investments, and am excited by its potential.”

Text Engine was also accepted into the award-winning reSET Social Impact Accelerator, where the team will have a chance to compete for a share of a $25,000 grant award.

Text Engine is a messaging application that creates smartphone capability for millions of low-tech phone users around the world. These non-smartphones typically don’t support web browsers, full data plans, or the ability to download apps. Text Engine enables these so-called “dumbphones” to search the Web, using only text messages.

There are roughly 76 million people in the U.S. who use feature phones, flip phones or “dumbphones” because they cannot afford or choose not to own a smartphone (1,2). In fact, roughly 590 million dumbphones were sold, worldwide, in 2015 (3). Even by 2018, the proportion of basic cellphones versus smartphones globally is expected to be 22% to 78% (4). That means right now there are still well over 3 billion dumbphone users around the world. That’s a huge number of people who can’t access the Internet on their mobile devices. With Text Engine, these non-smartphone users can access vital web information using their existing text messaging plan.

But Text Engine doesn’t just serve dumbphone users. It’s also proven quite useful for smartphone users in regions where internet or data signals are unreliable or non-existent. Many Text Engine users live in rural areas such as western Nebraska, impoverished Appalachia, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, rural Washington, Montana, upstate New York and even rural California.

Text Engine also helps users save on data because it requires no data to use. For example, Republic Wireless users on the “$10 no-data” plan love Text Engine. Everything from weather forecasts to Wikipedia articles is available via text using Text Engine, meaning the Web is no longer restricted on-the-go to those with a smartphone, data plan or reliable Wi-Fi.

For more information about Text Engine’s innovative product, visit their website at: For more information about Arlan Hamilton’s VC vision, follow Backstage Capital on Twitter (@Backstage_Cap) or go to:


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