Chatbot NearGroup selected for FbStart
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NearGroup Inc. has been selected by social networking giant Facebook Inc. for its FbStart programme, the company’s co-founder, Prashant Pitti, told Techcircle.

The startup will receive up to $40,000 from Facebook and its 30 partners, including Amazon, UserTesting, Dropbox and MailChimp. Besides, it will get free access to more than 25 services, including open source tools like React Native, FB Login, Account Kit and App Analytics.

Any developer, who had a working mobile app on Google Play or App Store, was eligible to apply for FbStart. NearGroup, a speed-dating chatbot that allows users to instantly chat with four potential dates, anonymously, was one of the 12 companies selected by the San Francisco-based accelerator Boost VC, and had subsequently shifted base there. The company was started in 2016 by Pitti, an IIT Madras alumnus who had earlier founded travel portal EaseMyTrip.

Stefan Kojouharov, founder of ChatbotsLife and Beerud Sheth, CEO of Gupshup chatbot platform, are advisors to the company. “Currently, 200,000-plus people from Philippines and the US are using our dating chatbot. We wish to take that number to five million in the next few months,” said Pitti. The company claims to process 200,000 to 500,000 chats daily.

Other startups selected for the programme include social networking and experiences discovery app Togedr, book summary app BookBhook, travel planning app HopBucket, competitive exam prep startup Exam Spirit, entertainment content aggregator Flickstree and tutor enablement platform XPrep, among others.

According to newswire agency IANS, India is the largest market for FbStart outside the US. According to Satyajeet Singh, who leads product partnerships for Facebook, over 75% of top-grossing apps in India get integrated with Facebook.

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