TipTalk is a messaging platform that gives fans one-on-one access to their favorite eSports personalities, social media influencers and celebrities via paid text, photo and video interactions. The free app is available on iOS devices now.

Echo Fox team owner Rick Fox was one of the early eSports executives on board with the service, which his team uses to communicate directly with fans.

Zach Melamed, CTO and co-founder of TipTalk, explains what the new messaging platform opens up for brands and fans in this exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to launch TipTalk?

One of our co-founders, Owen De Vries, was trying to get a hold of an influencer and made a comment at dinner, “I wish I could just pay this person to respond.” That was the “ah-ha” moment that led to further discussions with a network of influencers, who confirmed that they would love to respond to far more fan messages, and would do so if there was an incentive.

How does this app differ from other social media offerings or live chats via streams?

Our platform offers a safe and direct channel for verified influencers, experts and stars to engage with their fan base. Current social platforms and livestreams connect influencers with their fan base in a one-to-many fashion that lacks personalization and effectiveness. Users can post comment after comment, but are not guaranteed a response, as there is no incentive provided. TipTalk provides influencers with the incentive to directly connect with their fan base on their own terms.

What are the costs involved for fans and how do the pros generate revenue from these chats?

Influencers set their own “price” for engagement that varies depending on whether the fan wants a text, photo or video response. Fans then purchase $1 credits to engage with their favorite influencers who, on average, charge ten credits per message.

What type of support have you received thus far from pro players?

We’ve seen the pro players on our platform embrace TipTalk as a compliment to their current streaming platforms, such as Twitch. Since gamers are often busy streaming on platforms like Twitch, they are able to use TipTalk during any free time to engage one-on-one with their fans.

How has having Rick Fox cross-promote this app helped market it?

Rick Fox is becoming a pillar in the eSports community and his franchise Echo Fox carries a lot of weight. Having Rick and his players believe in TipTalk and effectively use the platform has really helped us reach the eSports market.

What’s the average amount of time fans are spending using this app?

New fans on average send and receive 3.2 messages the first time they use the app.

Are fans using this app as a second-screen experience during practice sessions or tournaments?

We have definitely seen a peak in usage in the time surrounding eSports tournaments and livestreaming sessions. The ability to communicate directly with the players as they are engaged in live play puts our users directly in the action. Before TipTalk the only option was to participate in group chat experiences where a fans comments and questions were lost in the noise and likely never viewed by the players. Now fans can actually ask questions in real time and get responses while the context is fresh in the minds of players.

What opportunities does this app open up for sponsors or brands?

Through direct engagement with their fans, eSports athletes will be able to create awareness for any brands they represent. As we expand the platform, we’ll be releasing tools for brands to develop partnerships with the players and teams directly through the platform.

Is there the potential for ad-based revenue for free exchanges with players?

We’ll certainly be exploring every opportunity to help players build businesses around their talents. We have some creative ideas in the pipeline related to driving ad revenue for the players.

As eSports becomes more mainstream, what opportunities does this open up for TipTalk?

As the eSports market continues to move mainstream, we will certainly benefit from the demand for one-on-one access to these newly minted stars. At the same time, we hope to build more features and tools to not only benefit ourselves, but to help activate new fans and create more awareness of eSports. This would allow us to give back to the market and become a key player in supporting its growth. We want anyone to be able to grow their audience and monetize their expertise on TipTalk. We believe we can become the new discovery platform to assist in driving eSports forward.