Sheffield tech star launches Tengi messaging app to take on the world

Neil Laycock of Tengi
Neil Laycock of Tengi

A Sheffield tech star is aiming for world domination with a new messaging app following success at the helm of Plusnet and

Neil Laycock is launching Tengi, a smartphone app that rewards users with a weekly cash draw - dubbed ‘Whatsapp with prizes’.



Initially, one winner will receive £1,000 and 200 will get £5, but the hope is this will rise to giveaways worth £20,000-a-week.

A team of 18 have been working on the business for a year after the concept’s originators headhunted Neil for the project. It is set to go live next week.

Neil said: “I’m aiming for this be one of the biggest messaging apps on the planet.

“Whatsapp got 100m users in four years, Line did it in 18 months, why can’t Tengi do it in six?

“The idea is so simple, but it’s original. Our commitment is to give away half of revenues forever. People are messaging all the time, so why not shift over to one with a prize?

“Having made two national brands in Sheffield, a global brand would be the icing on the cake.”

Neil, aged 47, who is originally from Crosspool, was made chief executive of internet service provider Plusnet after the departure of Lee Strafford in 2007.

He said: “It had 20 staff when I joined and 700 when I left.”

His second project - - is now the biggest private health information site in the UK, with 16m users.

He was headhunted by Tengi founders Rupert Lywood and Dr Mike Stein. The firm is based at Sheffield University’s Bioincubator on Leavygreave Road.

Income is set to come through advertising - Tengi is signed with two mobile ad brokers, Adfrap and Flurry - paid-for emoticons and merchandising.

It has been funded with £1.2m from 12 investors, including six Brits, Neil says.

The app sends text, emoticons, stickers, photos, videos and audio messages over the internet free. Some 650 people have been involved in testing. The app is free to download at the Apple store and on Android’s Play.

Neil added: “I’m very proud of my Sheffield roots. I think the city is blessed with high quality entrepreneurial skills and I think it’s a great place to create a business.”

Users can pre-register or take part in beta testing at