Sphere - Acquired by Twitter 🌐

Hey awesome Monzo Community, it’s me, your favourite renegade/ex-admin/traitor :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: I haven’t made a thread since the leaving one, but…. I wanted to say how humbled and grateful I am for the huge outpouring of support :heart:

Leaving was a not an easy decision, but when it’s time, it’s time. It’s really nice to be operating again in such a small environment (30 people or so!) where I’m able to give high level strategic input and utilise all of my skills to shape the progress of the company.

I really feel such a personal connection with so many of you all, and it’s because of that that I’m hoping to keep you in the loop with what I’m doing and hoping that you’ll join me in my journey!
I wanted to take a moment to update you all with what’s happening with Sphere Chat (my new home) and to see if any of you would be interested in testing it out soon.

As some of you might have seen in the TechCrunch article, Sphere is a chat messenger for groups to feel closer, and achieve more together. We hope to make group conversations feel more fun, and less tedious and chaotic - solving problems including unresponsive members, important information getting lost, and irrelevant floods of messages.

On a high level, some of these groups might even have needs that just aren’t being met by the current crop of group chat apps, whether that’s helping to arrange meetups and events, sending out newsletters, or even just gaining consensus on a decision. Many groups can get overrun with off topic chit-chat, or even just a lack of tools to help facilitate fun and friendly banter.

It’s very early days for us but my aim is that we become a company that’s, among other things, radically transparent (sound familiar?) and is really committed to building what we’re building together with our users.

Where we’re at right now is that we’re looking for folks who are admins of small communities or interest groups who aren’t being serviced well by the existing apps that are out there. Right now, we think we can serve these small communities well, who might have outgrown using something like a WhatsApp group, yet for whom something like Slack might be too business focused.

So, if you have a group that might benefit from such a thing - We’d like to know if you’d be willing to have a 30-60 minute phone call with one of our team so we can discuss what needs your community has and how Sphere might be able to help. We’ll shortly parlay this into actually onboarding people who are willing to try the app out and give us feedback. We aren’t expecting folks to fully move their groups over just yet - it’s a first date, not a marriage :wink: - but we’ll need as much feedback as we can get in these early days so that our early cohorts can help us shape the product as much as possible.

If that’s you, then hit up my DMs and let’s talk!

My other thing is that I’d love to deploy the product to a few individuals here who may not be admins of small communities / interest groups, but who are keen early adopters, like spotting bugs and giving feature suggestions, etc. That’d also be really helpful, and if you’re into giving that high level feedback, then hit me up and we can get you into the product - the caveat is that it’s very early days for us right now, so the product is pretty minimal (for now) and we’re being careful to only invite people who we believe will be happy to give us consistent, constructive feedback on the product.

The main priority right now is identifying admins / community managers who have needs that we can solve, and working with them to get detailed feedback that will help us build out the feature set. Some of the groups who we already have in this program include things like: Local football teams, University interest groups, Book clubs, we have a Young VC’s (venture capitalists) group, and we have at least one Dungeons and Dragons group :dragon:

Here’s the core feature set that we have so far:

Working, stable apps on iOS, Android and Web :apple: :android: :spider_web:
Sphere Creation and individual chat creation
Secret Chats (Invite only, not visible in the Sphere to non-invited Sphere members)
Picture upload
Announcements (Important messages that are highlighted, and every member has the option to click “I’ve read this” - admins can see who has clicked and who has not, and notify them individually or as a group)
@ name mentions

You can also check out our Help Centre here which has an FAQ and some more info:


Over the course of the rest of the year, we hope to have gathered enough feedback and solution validation to be confident to start opening up the app to a wider audience, and coming out of stealth. There’s lots of cool things I want to do as that progresses, for example, I’d love to launch a feature roadmap, public bug tracker, and obviously all the regular stuff like a blog, and our website MVP landing page. So lots of exciting things to come in that realm!

Thanks for reading, and I hope everyone here is doing well in the current climate :pray:


You’re awesome Simon and I don’t want to rain on your parade, but I’m interested to hear your thoughts about why I need ANOTHER chat app to maintain groups in?

I have group chats in iMessage (everyone with an iPhone), WhatsApp (anyone) and Microsoft Teams (work), there’s crossover of course, but very few people that don’t fit in one of them. Especially if you add Facebook groups for events etc.

There does look to be some cool features, but they are “that’s cool” and not “I must have this app now” and even then they are massively out-weighed by downloading another app that nobody else has. And if the features prove to be popular, the above mentioned will just copy them anyway!


I’m part of an online group that spends a lot of time talking about banking, and one specific bank in particular, I think Sphere would be great for that group!


I’d be happy to give feedback regularly if it will help. Bug spotting, squashing and UX is part of my day job. Would love to help where I can :slight_smile:

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I’m not 100% sure of the problem that Sphere trying to solve to be honest :frowning: You aren’t going to convince groups of friends to use another chat app, and it is business leaders who would need convincing to move from Slack or Teams. I’m not really sure where your market is or how you can convince groups of people to install it :frowning: (other than techies who want to play with it… but there is no revenue from them).


I get where you’re coming from, I’d argue too that getting a critical mass of people to move away from Whatsapp is going to be really hard. I’ve downloaded Signal and Telegram but “no one uses it*, because no one is on it”, (or what ever the catch 22 adage is…)

I reckon the really important benefit from what Simon said, is that ability to control the way the thread works is a lot easier. I kind of get Discourse x WhatsApp vibes from what he’s said.

Example: I joined a couple of Mutual Aid groups around my street when this whole lockdown started, and they are awash with random irrelevant information, topics going off thread, and also being targetted by Spam. Those sorts of groups I could see benefiting from this concept.

But yeah, hard to move people away…

*Unless you are a politician it seems

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I would like to hope I could get groups across if it was good enough.

Not entirely analogous but I’m thinking of splitwise and how I struggled to get friends on board at the beginning but now seems to be used by everyone, even lots who have purely Monzo households/groups.

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From what he said about some of the features, I’d say it could be helpful for small communities. For example, I attend and speak at a WordPress meetup. At this meetup you get all ranges of technical abilities(I was amazed at just how wide the range of abilities and skillsets were when I first went), We currently use Meetup to notify of upcoming events and we have a group on fb where some people chat. But there’s not really a platform like this that is quick and painless to join. Slack can be a ballache if you don’t already use it. I had to jump through hoops to get set up on teams for work. Workplace by FB is pure S****, normal fb groups are restricting(plus there’s a lot of people like me who would like not to rely on fb), Whatsapp is pretty restrictive, plus rubbish if it’s a community of acquaintances rather than friends, I don’t want everybody to know my number…

I think there’s room for a new type of chat app, but how you advertise its USP’s enough to gain a good uptake is the bit that would baffle me. Plus like someone said above, like with any start up, the already established apps can rip off your ideas quicker than you can make them.

It’s one hell of a challenge because it’s a very saturated market place


Much like with Monzo and legacy banks catching up and (in some cases) overtaking. Very very tough challenge for Sphere here.

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But then you have to convince people you don’t even necessarily know to install an app they don’t know, no doubt make an account etc etc… or they could just stick with WhatsApp and just ignore stuff of no relevance. I think we have to remember that most people are not like members of this forum.


Maybe the example I had isn’t the most suited, but I’m sure there are more that would have a better time encouraging sign ups. I see why a broad open invite group would be hard.

But lets say you run a amatuer football league, or your local branch of your political party, or your local AmDram group, etc etc. Or maybe you run a small business and need to communicate quick messages to your staff - basically any group that there is ‘flow’ in which one becomes engaged, and has some form of organised structure in which information needs to flow.

Running out of examples, but I could totally see a space where it fits if it’s made and advertised well. The “ignore stuff of no relevance” bit is also tricky, because people lose engagement and interest if the threads are filled with irrelevant stuff.

If you can reduce the hurdles of some of the more flexible tools (like Slack, and to an extent Discord), allow a more community based feel, like Discourse, plus the instant communication and ease of access of WhatsApp… Then sounds good.

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4 posts were split to a new topic: Question about Community forum policy

I think that is a good example of a use case. I just can’t see it being useful for anything else, the market is so crowded. To use a weird aircraft analogy (because I can’t think of another), you historically have had wide bodies for long haul, and narrow body for short haul. Now we have narrow bodies designed for long haul. The middle of the market (where I think Sphere possibly sits?) is a void because narrow bodies are adapting to bridge the gap.

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All that said, Simon has a roadmap, we don’t, and I think we trust his judgement :slight_smile:

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This is all in and of itself really valid feedback for us. Thank you all so much :slight_smile:

To be clear - we are very clear and aware that right now we haven’t cracked Product/Market Fit, and we also don’t yet know what it’ll take for us to get there. It might be a killer feature we come up with that nobody else does. It might be a group of features. It might be creating FOMO through PR and early adopters who believe in the prospect of something better being created and who are included in the shaping of a product that we start building out transparently and in the open. It might be all of the above, or something else entirely.

When I started at Monzo this was also largely the case. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but it’s also true that “Nobody wants to switch banks” was true back then and to some degree still is even with 4 million customers.

What is clear is that there are groups of people using solutions that aren’t meeting their needs. WhatsApp has a big barrier in that everyone’s phone numbers are visible. I know many groups who won’t use it because of that. The groups that I do know that are using it often up creating multiple chats and them not being segmented together is problematic. There’s also the distrust of Facebook and the fact that dev work at Whatsapp is pretty opaque, and their core platform is aging (it’s a decade old at this point) that could weigh into it.

Slack offers limited tooling unless you pay, and so one big issue there is information getting deleted in large groups.

That’s totally fair - and again, it’s not completely analogous but that’s also true of Monzo, with incumbents copying features :slight_smile:

Don’t worry about raining on my parade - I knew the challenges before I joined and it’s my job to overcome them, or at least give it my best shot! :wink:

I’ll come back with a more detailed response to some of your points on this next week re: Discord etc if that’s OK! But the answer to this specific question is - yes, quite possibly.

We do have early testers who are admins of groups with thousands of people. We’re synthesising and balancing out the feedback we get from them as well as all the admins we have from smaller groups right now, and it might well be the case that we decide that what we can realistically build is going to be disproportionately helpful for groups of x size and that it’s not going to be possible to cater to groups above a certain size. We don’t know that for sure yet, and that’s all part and parcel of figuring out product/market fit :slight_smile:

One broader point that is giving us a lot of excitement right now is that we appear to be operating in a new wave of consumer/social, which hasn’t been the case in many years. Covid may well have accelerated the move into new paradigms.

This blog post is really interesting, and something our investors and our CEO Nick are very much aligned with in this regard :slight_smile:


Hey Neil, thanks! Very well. We spent the current sprint phase we are in validating a great deal of things - both existent already and a variety and design prototypes and the learnings from them are very illuminating. They’ll inform the features and the continued testing and refining we do over the next phase.

We are taking things one step at a time, but we are happy with the progress. Feels like gradually putting together the pieces of a puzzle!

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Small update… We recently launched our landing page website. One of the first steps towards coming out of stealth mode!

Check it out:

Aside from that, we’ve been focusing on “production-readiness” by which we mean squashing an absolute ton of bugs across Android, iOS and Web. Plus, our design team are hard at work mocking up a few design prototypes of upcoming features so we can show them to some of our early cohort users to gather their thoughts and feedback before we build them.

We have a significant amount of groups actually using the product day to day right now considering how early we are (including quite a few forum members here) and I’m in the midst of planning our first digital event!

Couldn’t be happier with how progress is going :blush:


Some super interesting ideas here! And the UI from the initial screenshots looks lovely. Excited to see how it plays out especially with Discords re focusing on its copy https://blog.discord.com/your-place-to-talk-a7ffa19b901b

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We’re actually super excited about this, it validates a lot of our thinking. And we share the same VC investor :slight_smile:

100% there is always room for some competition! Best of luck and excited to try it when you launch

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