September 20, 2023

A brief history of TextNow

Written by kevin-c


The year was 2009. Lady Gaga had an apparently unreadable poker face, Avatar played to packed theaters, and Mad Men taught a new generation to obsess about mid-century modern furniture.

And most importantly: TextNow was founded.

It’s been a wild fourteen-year ride (and counting) from a student apartment to the 200-plus company we’ve since grown into, and we thought we’d look at some of the big milestones and fun accomplishments we’ve had along the way. Step into the Wayback Machine with TextNow....

2009: aka TextNow Year Zero. Founded by Derek Ting and Jon Lerner when they were still students at the University of Waterloo because they were tired of paying for texting and calling and decided to do something about it.

2010: Turns out quite a few people were sick of paying for texting and calling, as the TextNow app hits one million users.

2011: A big year for TextNow! We picked up a few million more users to top 15 million users.

2012: Our Android app is finally available in the PlayStore, so those iOS users don’t hog all the fun.

2013: TextNow takes its biggest business leap yet by introducing our TextNow Wireless service, making us the first ever full-service freemium wireless company – a fancy way of saying you could now use TextNow without WiFi, for a monthly fee.

2014: Launch of our patented Elastic Calling technology, which seamlessly switches calls between WiFi and cellular networks. No more dropped calls moving from WiFi to a network and vice versa. We also look beyond Waterloo to hire our first US employee.

2015: We introduce international calling to our platforms, and make TextNow available in two dozen countries outside the US & Canada.

2016: TextNow Inc. goes international! We open our first satellite office in the historic Flatiron Building in downtown San Francisco.

2017: TextNow hits a mind boggling one hundred million downloads across all platforms.

2018: We grow to over one hundred employees in Waterloo, necessitating a move to 420 Hagey Blvd and the new Evolv1 building, Canada’s first net-positive carbon footprint building and officially the greenest building in Canada.

2019: TextNow turns 10! We celebrate a decade of success as a company as we gear up for the next 10.

2020: We launch Free Nationwide Talk & Text, a first-of-its-kind offering that provides ad-supported cellular service. For free. For real.

2021: We switch to our new, faster network, introducing a GSM SIM that is compatible with more devices, and officially hit 200 employees!

2022: Saw our #TextNowPays contest pay off $50k's worth of December phone bills for our lucky winners.

2023: CNET declares TextNow one of the best cellphone plans for 2023, while Quartz names us one of the best companies for remote work.

Whew! Like I say, it’s been a wild ride. If we’ve managed all that in 14 years, imagine what the next 14 will bring. You should come along with us and find out!