Celly - BLOG

Proud To Be Oregonians!


We’re proud to be featured today in the business section of our local newspaper, The Oregonian. Many thanks to The Oregonian for covering Celly. 

We’re so grateful to our many Portland Metro area champions. As a mobile social networking platform, there are diverse Celly applications. Locally, Celly has been used for:


The Mayor’s Office of Youth Violence Prevention has used Celly since last June to mobilize gang outreach workers in realtime. The Gang Violence Task Force also utilizes Celly to coordinate its public safety network @safepdx. Members of  Celly include the Portland Police Bureau, the Bureau of Emergency Management, the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, and Multnomah County’s Department of Corrective Justice. Celly is the first social sharing platform approved by the City Attorney for use by Portland City workers.


Celly is being used by educators, parents, coaches, teams, bands, and students at Westview, Beaverton, Southridge, etc.. School district administrators are piloting the use of Celly for school closure alerts. Celly is being used at Portland Public School district where we recently worked with PPS administration to form a network of cells that includes all 95 schools in the district. This network will enable PPS administration to broadcast school alerts like closures and reminders. At Roosevelt High School, administrators have utilized Celly for parent notification alerts. At Grant High, teachers have used Celly for enriching classroom instruction. At Jefferson High, Celly has been used for community engagement. At Helensview, administrators are using Celly for student/staff/parent communication. At the HackForPortlandSchools.com event in June, we developed a donation service that lets people text GIVE to 23559 (C-E-L-L-Y) or scan a QR code and then pick one of five ways to give to Portland schools—books, time, money, clothes, food.


Local hospitals are using Celly for security event coordination and emergency response management. Upon detecting a crisis situation, hospital staff can use Celly to instantly notify team leaders who in turn disseminate information to their department members with situational guidance like patient care instructions. Celly has been used across a variety of city-wide incidents and has helped caregivers stay informed in realtime.

Political Movements

Locally, thousands of participants have used Celly to organize ad-hoc working cells for staying in touch and rallying just-in-time support for political activism like Occupy Portland or for local candidate support.

Parks and Neighborhoods

Celly is being used in Portland parks for foot patrols and by faith-based community watch groups. Celly has also educated the City of Beaverton’s Neighborhood Watch programs.

Future for the Portland Metro area

Since we launched Celly, one of our goals has been to help make the Portland Metro area an example of how technology can positively and equitably transform civic life. As a Portland startup, we are passionate about utilizing cellphones to make Portland the most engaged place in the world. Our city and region have the unique confluence of leadership, motivation, social consciousness, and technical know-how to be the most connected metropolitan area in the world. The Portland Metro area is a special place where this can happen. And our local businesses can potentially help rewrite the operating rules on corporate responsibility and sustainability. Let’s do it The Portland Way—by building socially responsible and sustainable technology ventures with giveback to schools and communities imprinted into the DNA of our business strategy and operations.

Very sincerely

Team Celly

Hurricane Sandy

Our thoughts are with those enduring Hurricane Sandy. We have family members in the path of Sandy who are affected. You are all on our mind. Please stay safe.

If our group messaging services can help anybody get connected to loved ones or caregivers, please text START to 23559 to create a group (what we call a “cell”). You can also go to http://cel.ly. Members can join by texting @groupname to 23559. You can then send group messages to stay connected. The service is absolutely free.

If you need help, please contact us support@cel.ly

Very sincerely,

Russell and Greg

Looking Back-To-School

Last Fall we introduced Celly into the edtech world as a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) mobile communication platform. We presented a suite of communication tools:

  • group messaging with moderation
  • one-way scheduled reminders
  • polling
  • text-to-screen display
  • notetaking
  • realtime search
  • and the ability to link groups into communication networks

With students beginning a new school year, it’s a natural time to look back at the past year and answer the question,


Celly gives people the power to simply and instantly create private social networks that work across the entire learning ecosystem.

From the nucleus of the classroom radiating outward to the school, playground, home, and community at large, Celly has enabled students, staff, parents, and community volunteers to customize virtual groups called “cells” for their organization’s unique privacy, security, and communication requirements.

Starting in the classroom where privacy between teachers and students is paramount, Celly has enabled reminder alerts, moderated Q&A study groups, and searchable message archives without the need to exchange private phone numbers:

“I created a group for each of my two classes to serve as a reminder for assignments. I also created a cell group for my club. The security settings for the club is “open” so that any member in the club can text the club. My class is a “closed” cell, meaning that I am the only one who can text the entire class. My students can text me if they have a question. The best part is they do not have my real cell number and it is a controlled environment in that Celly keeps a record of every message placed.”

Make Texting a Positive in School with Celly guest post by Melissa Seideman

Celly has also facilitated student learning within the classroom by enabling in-class discussion backchannels and text-to-screen polls.  A key outcome is that Celly has leveled the playing field for discussion resulting in greater class participation and conceptual understanding:

“The shy kids don’t like to talk during regular group discussions, but they’re really active on Celly,” says Joseph Gianotti, 38, an English teacher at Lowell High School in Lowell, Indiana, uses Celly as a discussion backchannel. For instance, students listen to To Kill a Mockingbird on tape, text their reactions, and Gianotti projects the stream of responses onto the wall for everyone to see. He finds that Celly has increased overall class participation.

Scott Brewer, 48, professor of counseling at Santa Barbara City College, a community college in California, polls students via Celly in his class on how to be successful in college. When he asked them to name the biggest challenge to doing well in school, procrastination got the most votes, so he used the next class to discuss that issue.”

Time.com:  Texting 1, 2, 3: Schools Test ‘Bring Your Own Technology’ Programs 

see video Celly for In-Class Discussion at Lowell High School

Celly’s group collaboration, notetaking, and text messaging features have also been adopted as a way of teaching Common Core Standards in the classroom:

And Celly has been used creatively in the classroom for team-building and teaching interpersonal relationship skills:

Within schools, Celly has improved student-to-student collaboration by creating linkcrew mentoring groups where students can ask upperclassmen buddies for help ranging from class selection, study habits, and social advice. 

Celly has also improved two-way school-wide communication by enabling school administrators to solicit feedback with tiplines allowing students to send anonymous text messages related to safety issues or suggestions. In addition, Celly has enabled school principals, district CIOs, and university IT departments to broadcast school-wide alerts and to automatically curate school-relevant content from web and twitter feeds:

The Tried And True Trio Of Tools To Get Going With Cellphones For Learning by Lisa Nielsen and Willyn Webb

Celly and the art of communication

Celly has improved student learning outcomes by creating a safer learning environment that prevents cyberbullying, impersonation, and oversharing. We collaborated directly with teachers, students, parents, and education technology experts to design a service with curation that can manage large groups of people yet keep conversations streamlined, safe, and on-topic. Statistically, Celly groups are large: half of Celly users belong to at least one cell with over 50 people. About 60% of cells are in curated mode which indicates how Celly enables safe, moderated, large group discussion:

Moving beyond schools walls, Celly has improved communication between students, teachers, band leaders, and coaches on the playing field and on field trips. Student athletes and coaches have used Celly to coordinate games and practices:

“I sponsor the 8th grade trip at GCMS every year.  We always have issues with communication even though everyone has cell phones.  My sister (Scott Co, Northern Elementary) introduced me to Celly the morning we departed for our trip. I announced the number and message over the pa system of the buses and let’s just say it was AMAZING from that point.  We never had anyone late for departures. I sent out messages of compliments from museums, reminders each night for breakfast and departure from hotel.  I have passed CELLY on to the Chorus trip sponsor who also had great success with the services benefits. I will most definitely share CELLY with as many people as I possibly can that are coaches, trip sponsors, my administration, etc… Thank you for this service!!!”

Kelli Lee, Science and Social Studies, 8th grade Trip Sponsor

At home, Celly has improved learning outcomes by improving parent engagement and awareness of teacher/student activity:

Finally, Celly has provided communities and school districts with a means for promoting events, collecting issue inventories, and fundraising. Schools/districts can create Public Service Announcements and call-to-actions to raise money for school projects and causes:

Looking forward into the new school year, our hope is that Celly continues to spread as a platform for improving student learning outcomes both inside and outside school walls. We are improving device access to our platform with the introduction of our first smartphone app—Celly for Android will be released in a couple weeks…with iPhone coming very soon too.

Education is a message that can be communicated 140 characters at a time. Not only do we hope Celly continues to augment student learning, but we hope Celly spreads as a way to create tight-knit learning networks between students, parents, and staff that unite communities at large. Please send us your feedback and ideas.

Very sincerely,

Team Celly, team@cel.ly

Celly Android App Available For Invite-Only Pre-Release

We are making our Celly Android application available for a limited time as an invite-only pre-release. Our new app is slick, powerful, and fun. The app lets you manage everything that our website and SMS service provides. Managing lots of cells is a breeze. Here are feature highlights:

  • group messaging with optional curation
  • no member limit on cell size
  • choose theme and sounds for each cell
  • privacy controls
  • scheduled alerts and reminders
  • multiple-choice polls with realtime chart updates
  • built-in @notes cell for your thoughts
  • fully synchronized with the Celly website
  • join by scanning a QR code
  • push notifications
  • easy to share the app with your phone contacts and facebook friends
Here’s how the limited pre-release works:
  1. The Android app is available for download at the Google Play Store
  2. To unlock the application, an invite code is required or you must be an existing Celly user (as of today)
  3. New app users receive ten invite codes to distribute to friends.
  4. Users who get five friends to join receive the pro version of the Celly app when it becomes available in a few weeks.

Thanks to all the beta users who tested the app. Get it now! If you don’t have an invite code, check with your friends on facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc. to see if they have an invite code to share with you. 

Please send feedback to support@cel.ly

Thanks so much

Team Celly

Celly awarded as a Top 25 Best Website for Teaching and Learning by AASL

AASL logo

This past weekend, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announced recipients of their 2012 Top 25 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning

Celly is truly honored to be selected as one of the Top 25 Websites! 

The awards were presented during the ALA 2012 Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif. According to AASL, sites recognized as a Best Website for Teaching and Learning  display ”the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration. They are free, Web-based sites that are user friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover.” They also provide a foundation to support AASL's Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. Here’s the criteria for Social Networking & Communication, the category that Celly is recognized for:

  • 3.1.2 Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners.
  • 4.1.7 Use social networks and information tools to gather and share information.
  • 4.3.1 Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person.

This award is a huge deal for us as we are proud to help libraries. The Best Websites for Teaching and Learning list is based on feedback and nominations from AASL members. If you are a librarian or teacher, please keep in touch and continue to send us your ideas to improve Celly. We are listening and honored that you use our service. Thank you so much.

Team Celly

Celly Web App Redesign, New Ways to Share Cells

You may have noticed we have slowly been making changes to our web interface. Today we rolled out our next batch of web changes, and we think you’ll like them.

We have switched over to the Dosis font, reduced font sizes, changed colors and backgrounds, and tried to make better use of space. We also put more emphasis on cell logos, so make sure you cell has a nice big logo! We will be doing lots more with those in the future, and many other web tweaks, but that is for another blog post. 

The other area we worked on is joining and sharing cells. We are introducing a great new way to share cells: public links and golden ticket links. A public link is just a nice short link that makes it easy to share your cell on twitter, facebook, and email. People who use that link will still have to get approval to join your cell if it is private.

The real magic is in golden ticket links: you can share a link that lets people enter your cell without approval, invite, or a password. This means you need to be careful about who you give them out to, but it makes joining cells much easier. A great way to use a golden ticket link is to send it to a mailing list, or post the link to a facebook group of trusted people. If your link gets out to an audience that you don’t want to have it, you can regenerate it by clicking the little refresh button next to the link - this makes the old link invalid.

When people click your golden ticket, they will see a friendly landing page that gives them an overview of the cell:

Soon we will be adding QR codes for public links and golden tickets. Beyond that, our next step in sharing cells will be connecting to your facebook friends. We will be adding this to our android app first, and then to the website soon after. Let us know if you have other ideas for sharing your cells.

Hack for Portland Schools: Text GIVE to 23559 

This past Saturday we had tremendous fun at the Hack for Portland Schools event.

In a few hours, we built and deployed a live service that lets you text GIVE to 23559 (C-E-L-L-Y) or scan a QR code and then pick one of five ways to give:

  • give books
  • give time
  • give money
  • give clothes
  • give food

Live features include:

  • When you reply to one of the call-to-actions, you then receive web links to area resources that let you complete the giving process. 
  • You can also opt-in to join a cell (text group) for any of the five giving methods. This lets you submit requests as well as receive text message alerts whenever somebody posts a request. People can chat as a group about specific needs and coordinate resource sharing. In essence, each cell—@giveBooks, @giveTime, @giveMoney, @giveClothes, @giveFood—is its own cause-based social network that anybody can join in seconds. Anybody can instantly join one of these cells directly. Just text @giveTime to join the @giveTime cell.
  • Finally, to help push new content, we hooked up the service to DonorsChoose projects so whenever a new school project in the Portland area is submitted via DonorsChoose, a text message alert about the project gets sent to members.

Future (very soon)

We will be adding a simple “Enter your zipcode” text menu option that will let you specify your location. We will then take your location and narrow search results (e.g, just show you DonorsChoose projects in your zipcode). That way you can give back directly to local schools right in your own neighborhood. What this means too is that the service will work for any school in the country.

The goal of the event was to hack solutions to help people give to Portland’s schools. The event was hosted at PIE (Portland Incubator Experiment) and organized by Nick Barham of Wieden + Kennedy and representatives from Portland Public Schools (Superintendent Carole Smith was there) as well as Mayor Sam Adams and CitySync. We actually saw the Mayor’s tweet about the event in the afternoon and showed up at 3pm. So we had only 2.5 hours to hack our service together. Fortunately, we leveraged the Celly platform, so it was simple and quick to hack the service together.

We enjoyed meeting the other teams and collaborating with them. There were a lot of fun ideas presented. We hope all of them blossom into viable public services. They can all be easily plugged into the “Text GIVE” service in minutes, so let us know when your service is ready and we can add it as a resource.

We hope Portlanders (and soon people around the country) start using the service to help their local schools. We’ve removed friction to giving with a fast, simple, ubiquitous call-to-action: giving by SMS.

Team Celly

Celly on Time.com

Thanks to writer Olivia B. Waxman and some of our awesome members, there is an article about Celly in schools up on Time.com. Here is an excerpt from a student:

Still, thanks to BYOT, high school is not so bad after all, according to New Milford tenth grader Kiefer Handschuh, 16. “I know it is a cliché, but from the movies you think high school is boring and that all of the cool things happen in detention like in The Breakfast Club, but [BYOT] really does make school seem a lot more fun,” he says.

Read more: http://techland.time.com/2012/05/02/texting-1-2-3-schools-test-bring-your-own-technology-programs/?iid=tl-main-lede#ixzz1tpwFiVmk

Celly Android Beta

After lots of hard work and long nights we are ready to share a beta version of our Celly Android app with the world. The app lets you do everything our website does plus a lot more:

  • Everything you would expect: sending messages, private messaging, sending polls, managing scheduled messages, managing members, approving curated messages. It’s all there!
  • Push notifications for new messages. We use a technique that is light on your battery and gets the messages to you nearly instantly.
  • Manage your cells and private chats with ease. We have a cool tabbed interface and an inbox that lists all your conversations. You can use the search button on your phone to bring up an autocomplete box where you can type in cell names or user names to private chat with them.
  • You can customize notifications for each cell, so you can turn notifications on or off for each cell, and pick different sounds and vibrate settings for each one.
  • We have three cool themes for you to choose from in the app. Comic is our default, we have a plain looking theme called Clean, and we have an experimental one called Smoke. Look for lots of improvements in these themes and other ones in the future. You will also eventually be able to choose a different theme for each cell.
  • Sharing and joining cells via QR code. You can share your cell with a qr code, and other people with the app can scan the code on your phone to join.
  • Polling with pie charts. We have nice looking pie charts that show your results.
  • We recommend keeping SMS alerts turned on for now. We are pretty confident about push notifications but don’t want you to miss anything. If you get a text but no push, or a push and no text, let us know!
  • Send all feedback to support@cel.ly

Some things are still unfinished. Here they are so you don’t go hunting for them:

  • Inviting people is not implemented yet. We are working on some really cool stuff here.
  • Creating cells and changing cell settings aren’t implemented yet. You need to do this on the website. We want to make this really great before we enable it in the app.
  • Reporting posts and people for abuse isn’t implemented yet
  • Registering for a new account doesn’t work yet. you need to text PASSWORD to 23559 for a new account or to set your password.

We are also still spending significant time on improving the visual look and refining all the UI elements.

We would love your feedback, and if you are not a beta user already, please let us know if you want to join. Email support@cel.ly to let us know.


The Celly Team

Announcing Email Notifications & More for Celly


We are pleased to announce today that we are unleashing email notifications for Celly. You can now receive email for cell messages, private messages, and any of our various system notifications. We already allowed new members to signup with just their email (no phone required), but now they can actually stay up to date without logging into our website.

To setup email notifications for system events (and for new conversations), first connect your email address if you haven’t already, then visit your profile page and check the checkbox “email me” in the “profile basics” section.

If this box is checked, new cells and private conversations will automatically have email alerts turned on for new messages. 

In the same manner, you can also now turn off SMS notifications for system events on that page. 

If you want to enable email for some of the cells you are already a member of, you can manage this on the the page for the cell. In the right column there are new buttons to turn email or SMS on and off. These buttons only show up if you have email or your phone hooked up. 

This has been one of our top requested features and we are happy to be able to launch it today. Let us know how this works out for you and if you have any suggestions!


The Celly Team

Introducing Hashlinks: Build Networks of Social Networks

Happy New Year 2012!

To kick off the new year, we’re excited to rollout an innovation we believe will fundamentally enhance the way groups communicate. Complex organizations like schools often have many disparate cells (our word for groups), some for classrooms, parent alerts, sports teams, etc. Today Celly introduces a way to let you link multiple cells together with hashtags forming a network of cells—a social matrix.

The technology enabling cell-to-cell federation is a new social sharing innovation we call HashlinksHashlinks link two cells together by a hashtag. They enable members in different cells to broadcast messages to each other. When a message with a specified hashtag is sent to one cell, Celly will also broadcast the message to the linked cell. For example, one cell called @school1 can be linked to another cell @school2 by agreed upon hashtags like #event. When a message with #event is sent to @school1, it will also be broadcast to @school2.

Message flow enabled by hashlinks can be outgoing, incoming, or bi-directional. To establish hashlinks between cells, the administrators of the cells must approve the hashlink relationship.

@schooldistrict cell could use hashlinks to form a realtime communication network with all schools in the district. In this way, events and alerts like school cancellations could be routed automatically and efficiently from @schooldistrict to each of the schools in the district:

Bi-directional hashlinks between the schools and district could enable schools to inform the district of particular events like campus emergencies that could then be routed to neighboring schools.

It’s easy to create a hashlink. The administrator of the cell just needs to click the "add hashlink" button on the cell’s web page. Then a dialog box appears that lets the administrator define the hashlink. This definition includes three items: the target cell for the hashlink, the message flow direction, and the hashtag:

Give hashlinks a spin and let us know what you think. We think hashlinks will open up new ways for organizations to share information with other organizations, encouraging loosely-coupled workflows and ad-hoc user hashlink vocabularies aka folksonomies.

Thanks for using Celly and for your ideas about how we can improve our service.

Stay tuned for more innovations in 2012!

Celly voted Top Ten #EdTech Startup 2011

hackeducation logo

We’re so proud to have made the Top Ten EdTech Startup for 2011 list put together by Audrey Watters of hackeducation.com. This is really an honor. Of all top ten lists, this is the one we want to be on, since hackeducation.com is the best #edtech blog out there. Audrey covers #edtech stories with incisive and witty analysis. Her voice is a clarion call to the #edtech community: we need to apply tech skills to build the best most accessible tools for our students, our kids.

We believe small tools can change the world. Celly’s vision is to help bridge the digital divide by improving learning through the smallest, most accessible tools on the planet, the cellphone and text messaging. We’ve created a way where 140 characters can inspire learning, level playing fields, unite students, parents, and teachers, and promote funding of education. We call this place a “cell”

As edtech companies and venture capitalists target solutions for the latest technologies like iPads and the smartest phones, hoping to sell their products to the wealthiest school districts, we feel that technology inclusion is vital. Our take is that the cost of technology for schools can be dramatically cut if you can “bring your own device” (BYOD) to school and then for continuity, take that device home with you where you can maintain connectivity with your school. It’s great that many schools and districts are focused on getting funding deals to equip their students and staff with the lastest tablets. Having the latest and greatest technology is fun and learning through animation and video is certainly compelling. Many startups are targeting these devices and school demographics. At Celly, however, we think this focus can too easily become myopic and overlooks a key point: quality education is not just about kids/students connecting with teachers within school, it’s vital that parents are connected too—from outside the classroom to administrators and their kids within the school. It’s unlikely that school districts are going to give everybody in the family a new iPad3 for free. That’s why we think having affordable technology that helps parents get engaged with schools is paramount, and that this technology works with what most parents already have: a cellphone and text messaging.

So from a product standpoint, our goal is to build the fastest way to connect people, especially at face-to-face gatherings like students and teachers in a classroom. We recently streamlined our on-boarding process so that it is now incremental. To start using our platform of group texting solutions, you can get connected quickly by just logging in via Facebook or Twitter.  Moreover, to improve on-boarding ease and increase accessibility to students and families, we’ve even made it possible to participate in Celly without a cell phone. You can now just use email!

Stay tuned for more innovations in 2012! We’d love to hear your feedback and ideas too. Please send your thoughts to support@cel.ly.

Seasons Greetings! 

Celly Team

A Letter to Parents from Celly Cofounder Russell Okamoto

Dear Parents,

First and foremost, as cofounder of Celly, I want to let you know Celly is designed from the perspective of parents:


In fact, my teen’s high school was one of the earliest adopters of Celly. We have an ongoing collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and coaches at my child’s school as well as with many Portland area civic leaders and high schools around the nation. Now that the school year has begun, Celly is growing quickly. Students, teachers, administrators, parents, families, neighbors, coworkers, etc. are all signing up. As growth occurs, I want to proactively address questions that parents might ask.


Celly turns classrooms, schools, teams, neighborhoods, offices, or any organization—big or small—into their own private communication networks. We call these “cells”. Cells let members communicate in a group using their phone (via text messaging) or the web. Communication is secure, private, and can be moderated by one or more curators.

Thousands of schools have already adopted Celly for a variety of scenarios from teacher-led study groups, link-crew mentoring, team sports, field trips, orchestra and band clubs. Cells are private by default so members are explicitly invited by a cell administrator. Celly lets students communicate with teachers and administrators at anytime—in class or out of class. Teachers can send homework reminders to students via Celly. Students can ask teachers and fellow classmates about assignments. Student athletes and coaches use Celly to coordinate games and practices. School administrators use Celly to send out school-wide alerts and event information to parents. Parents can use Celly to coordinate daily schedules, keep in touch with extended family members, and organize reunions, weddings, vacations, neighborhood watch groups, and office work groups.


We designed Celly keeping in mind the lessons of cyberbullying, impersonation, and oversharing rampant in the use of existing social networks. These systems weren’t designed for the privacy and moderation requirements found in sharing environments like the classroom. As first generation social networks, they followed the design path of “everything is public”, whereas Celly is designed from scratch for privacy and safety.

To build Celly, we collaborated directly with teachers, students, parents, and education technology experts coast-to-coast to learn where and why existing social networks do not work for schools and complex organizations. Reasons cited were inadequate privacy, oversharing, and the lack of fine-grained moderation and membership controls. Schools also told us that educators and students cannot be permitted to exchange phone numbers because of privacy policies, yet they still have a pressing need for quick and simple, equal access methods of group communication. Such requirements were all considered and designed as core features in Celly:

*Members can securely join and participate in a cell WITHOUT HAVING TO EXCHANGE PHONE NUMBERS. This removes any context for impropriety.

*Users can BLOCK messages from other users to explicitly prevent receipt of abusive messages.

*Messages in Celly can first be FILTERED FOR APPROPRIATENESS by one or more CURATORS. This enables particular messages to be picked out and then selectively broadcast to a wider group (such as a question & answer scenario). This curation process prevents spamming of large groups with swarms of chat messages and gives curators a way to guard against cyberbullying activities.

*Curators can control how and who joins a cell. Any curator can decline a new user who picks an offensive user name or a curator can KICK an offensive member.

*Curators can control who can chat on the cell (e.g. everybody, just curators, etc.) and manage when cell messages get delivered (e.g., only during classroom hours or during a daily time window).


Celly is free. We don’t charge anything. You still, however, need to pay your carrier phone bill. For example, if you have a limited text messaging plan, text messages exchanged via Celly count toward your plan.


Celly’s core services are available for free as a base level of support. To make money, we offer advanced features that organizations like school districts can purchase.


First time users select a username of their choice that can be 6-20 characters long. The username they choose is entirely up to them. It can be their actual name if they like, or it can be whatever they want.

Celly collects cellphone numbers only for purposes of delivering messages to a member’s cellphone. Celly does not use this information for sharing identity. Instead of cellphone numbers, a member’s username is what other members see. As mentioned previously, a key security and privacy mechanism offered by Celly is that users can text each other WITHOUT disclosing their cellphone numbers. Regarding messages that are sent via the service, only the sender and the recipients see the information provided.

To summarize:

*We will NEVER share any of your personal information with anyone.
*It’s your choice to post content and make it public. You are solely responsible for the content you post.
*You are solely responsible for any data, screen names, graphics, photos, profiles, audio and video clips, links and any other content that you submit, post and display on Celly.

For more info, see Celly’s Privacy Policy, http://cel.ly/privacy and Terms of Service, http://cel.ly/tos


Celly enables curators to approve/disapprove all membership requests. That means if a new member picks an offensive or deceitful username, the curators can detect this and prevent the user from joining.

Curators can also enhance the authentication process by requesting the new user provide a profile description. Based on this profile, curators can establish identity of the joining member. Furthermore, curators can augment the authentication process by requiring a password to join a cell.


My cofounder Greg Passmore and I are friends who have worked together for 14 years as software engineers at GemStone Systems, Inc. and as cloud computing architects at VMware. Greg and I have combined our strengths to solve some of the hardest problems in data management and distributed systems. Over the years, Greg served as a principal design engineer on many products. I worked as lead architect, Director of Engineering, and ultimately Chief Scientist. We left VMware in May 2011 to pursue our passion with Celly. We want to build a socially responsible and sustainable technology venture with giveback to schools and communities imprinted into the DNA of our business plan. We want to empower local schools and communities by transforming anybody’s phone into a learning device.


Celly is designed by a parent. Not only is Celly’s reputation at stake, but my own child’s safety and credibility is at stake! I don’t allow my child to use Facebook because of the frequency of bullying and abuse. So in contrast to popular social networks, safety, privacy, and moderation are front and center in Celly. Though no system is game-proof, I think the more you learn about Celly, the more you’ll understand what we’ve done to build failsafes. You can count on the fact that we will remain vigilant and continuously evolve Celly to provide a safe, productive environment for social communication. Please send us feedback, concerns, and ways we can improve Celly. You can email us at support@cel.ly. I’d be happy to answer any questions. You can contact me personally at russell@cel.ly. Thank you.

With gassho!

Russell Okamoto
Cofounder Celly, Inc.

Polling Upgrades: Live Updates on Web, More Options

Tonight we deployed some more upgrades to polls on Celly. The coolest one is that polls now update live on the website, so you don’t have to refresh to see the results refresh.

You can click on the timestamp for a poll and see a page that just shows that one poll. That page will stay updated without refresh, so you can show it on a projector or smartboard to show poll results as they come in. This page also shows the total number of members and how many have voted so far.

We also made a change so that when people join your cell, they will automatically get texted the latest open poll on your cell. This means you can create a poll ahead of time, and then have people join and they will be able to see and vote in your poll.

We also added another option to polls, a checkbox that lets you turn off automatic poll closing when everyone votes. This way the poll won’t accidentally close early before all the members have joined. 

With these additions combined, you can create a cell, setup a poll, and then have people quickly see it when they join, vote, and show it all on a projector. Let us know how this works for you! Thanks for playing with Celly.