Yapster, a mobile chat app powering internal communications for brands like Ann Summers, Caffè Nero and Dunelm, has launched its first equity crowdfunding round on Crowdcube.

The London-based start-up is looking for £650,000 on Crowdcube in return for 6.5 per cent equity to grow its development and operations teams following new contract wins.

The company also plans to increase investment in business development to capitalise on growing interest being fuelled by the implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25th May.

Eighty per cent of the world’s workforce don’t work at desks, meaning they often don’t have the same access to common communication tools like email, which can impact on employee engagement and productivity.

Specifically designed for companies with mobile workforces, such as those in retail and hospitality, Yapster enables more effective and efficient team communication.

"In less than three years we’ve turned a conversation in the pub into a valuable communications tool that’s now in the hands of thousands of staff working for some of the best known names on the high street," said CEO Rob Liddiard.

"Our window of opportunity is wide open right now. GDPR will lead to many big employers moving away from WhatsApp and Facebook, so we are gearing up for significant growth over the next 12-18 months in a market estimated to be worth over £1bn a year."

Using the app staff can send one-to-one and group messages, initiate flash polls and post to the company newsfeed within a ‘safe space’ only accessible to others in the same organisation.

According to Yapster’s market research, over 50 per cent of store managers at the UK’s top 100 retailers said that they currently use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or personal text message as their main method of communication with their teams.

The use of these consumer apps for work has become known as ‘shadow communications’.

The general consensus amongst industry experts is that companies that continue to rely on these channels will be exposed to the risks of GDPR non-compliance, where firms can be fined as much as four per cent of their worldwide turnover for a breach.

Yapster is led by co-founders Rob Liddiard, who is CEO and a former corporate lawyer; and CTO Craig McMillan, a graduate of Cambridge's school of Computer Science.

Former Ryman COO Matthew Dashper-Hughes said: "The speed and dynamic responsiveness of direct messaging makes it an obvious tool for businesses to use for many purposes - from motivating and engaging teams for specific incentives through to simple things like managing staff rotations.

"The great thing about Yapster is that the platform can be moderated to prevent any inappropriate behaviours. I would love to see it go on to become a ubiquitous business tool."