Dispo launches a test to gauge user interest in selling their photos as NFTs

The photo-sharing app that emulates disposable cameras, Dispo started rolling out a test yesterday that will record user interest in selling photos as NFTs. Some users will now see a sell button on their photos, and when they tap it, they can sign up to be notified when the ability to sell Dispo photos launches.

CEO and co-founder Daniel Liss told TechCrunch that Dispo is still deciding how it will incorporate NFT sales into the app, which is why the platform is piloting a test with its users. Dispo doesn’t know yet what blockchain it would use, if it would partner with an NFT marketplace, or what cut of sales Dispo would take.

“I think it’s safe to say from the test that there will be an experience native to the Dispo app,” Liss said. “There are a number of ways it could look — there could be a native experience within Dispo that then connects through an API to another platform, and in turn, they’re our partner, but to the community, it would look native to the Dispo app.”

Image Credits: Dispo

This marks a new direction for the social media app, which seeks to redefine the photo-sharing experience by only letting users see the photos they took at 9 AM the next morning. From Dispo’s perspective, this gimmick helps users share more authentically, since you take one photo and then you’re done — the app isn’t conducive to taking dozens of selfies and posting the “best” image of yourself. But though it only launched in December 2019, Dispo has already faced both buzzy hype and devastating controversy.

Until about a year ago, the app was called David’s Disposables, named after co-founder and YouTuber David Dobrik. The app was downloaded over a million times in the first week after its release and hit number one on the App Store charts. In March 2021, the app dropped its waitlist and relaunched with social network features, but just weeks later, Insider reported sexual assault allegations against a member of Vlog Squad, Dobrik’s YouTube prank ensemble. In response, Spark Capital severed ties with the company, leading to Dobrik’s departure. Other investors like Seven Seven Six and Unshackled Ventures, who contributed to the company’s $20 million Series A round, announced that they would donate any profits from their investments in Dispo to organizations working with survivors of sexual assault.

Liss told TechCrunch in June, when the company confirmed its Series A, that Dobrik’s role with the company was as a marketing partner — Liss has been CEO since the beginning. In light of the controversy, Liss said the app focused on improving the product itself and took a step back from promotion.

According to data from the app analytics firm SensorTower, Dispo has reached an estimated 4.7 million global installs to date since launch. Though the app saw the most downloads in January 2020, when it was installed over 1 million times, the app’s next best month came in March 2021, when it removed its waitlist — that month, about 616,000 people downloaded Dispo. Between March and the end of August, the app was downloaded around 1.4 million times, which is up 118% year over year compared to the same time frame in 2020 — but it should be expected that this year’s numbers would be higher, since last year, the app’s membership was exclusive.

Image Credits: Dispo

Now, with the announcement that Dispo is pursuing NFTs, Liss hopes that his company won’t just change how people post photos, but what the relationship will be between platforms and the content that users create.

“Why NFTs? The most powerful memories of our lives have value. And they have economic value, because we created them, and the past of social media fails to recognize that,” Liss told TechCrunch. “As a result, the only way that a creator with a big following is compensated is by selling directly to a brand, as opposed to profiting from the content itself.”

Adding NFT sales to the app offers Dispo a way to profit from a cut of user sales, but it stands to question how adding NFT sales could impact the community-focused feel of Dispo.

“I think there is tremendous curiosity and interest,” Liss said. “But these problems and questions are why we need more data.”

#app-store, #apps, #ceo, #co-founder, #computing, #daniel-liss, #david-dobrik, #dispo, #freeware, #instagram, #internet-culture, #mobile, #mobile-applications, #nfts, #operating-systems, #series-a, #social, #social-media, #social-media-app, #software

If you love voice messaging, you’ll love Squad

Squad used to be an app that connected people with similar interests for in-person meetups. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. While most social apps thrived under these conditions — people craved digital connection more than ever — Squad couldn’t operate.

Founder Isa Watson didn’t know how long the world would be in shutdown. Instead of waiting for a return to normalcy, she shifted the scope of the app entirely.  

Today, Squad relaunches as an audio-based social app that aims to help users deepen their relationship with their existing circle of close friends. Squad is an audio-only app, but don’t worry — it’s not another Clubhouse wannabe. Instead, it functions as a news feed of voice message updates from your closest friends, which expire after 24 hours.

You can add up to twelve friends to your “squad,” and once you post an update, your squad members can emoji react or send a private voice message in response — these also expire after a day, encouraging users to be more open about what they share. Soon, Squad will support phone calls, but there currently isn’t functionality for group calls or group audio messaging. But, users might be incentivized to talk on the phone via Squad rather than a typical call, since you can add a title to your call. That way, your squad member knows why you’re calling before they pick up. 

Image Credits: Squad

“There’s a big gap in the social landscape, because most of the tools are discovery platforms, broadcast platforms, and personal branding platforms,” Watson said. “There’s a huge opportunity for us to come in and help people maintain stronger connections with the people that they enjoy the most.”

Posting a voice update feels more genuine than a curated Instagram shot or a crafted Facebook status update (and Facebook is decidedly uncool among Gen Z and millennials). As the popularity of apps like Dispo show, young people are responding well to ephemeral, authentic social media experiences. But the audio-only medium could be a hard sell for people who aren’t already sending voice messages on WhatsApp or iMessage. However, while Squad’s initial rollout will be domestic, there’s great potential for an app like this outside of the US, where voice messaging is more popular

“A lot of the conversations that would happen on text message are now happening in an asynchronous audio type of way,” Watson added. “So we expect that to continue to penetrate further into our habits.” 

Watson raised a $3.5 million seed round in 2019, and she was featured on TechCrunch with advice on raising venture capital as a woman of color in Silicon Valley. Despite changing the direction of her app, her investors — which include Michael Dearing (Harrison Metal), Aaron Levie (Box), Katrina Lake (StichFix), Jen Rubio (Away), and Stewart Butterfield (Slack) — remain supportive. Watson secured another million dollars of funding after the seed round, bringing Squad’s funding to a total of $4.5 million to date. 

“One thing [the investors] said to me was, ‘Isa, you’ve been talking about this shift in social for years now, and people told you you were crazy, that social was all figured out and there was nothing that was going to happen,’” Watson said. “Now, people are buying into that change.”

Image Credits: Squad

Even though Squad isn’t a Clubhouse competitor, the rise of audio-only media is a good sign for the app’s ability to crack a saturated social market (so many social apps are trying to compete with Clubhouse, it’s a miracle we don’t yet have audio-only Tinder speed dating). In Squad’s beta test, 87.5% of users completed the onboarding process. Still, Squad falls victim to the same accessibility issues that plague Clubhouse and many of its clones. As of yet, Squad doesn’t support captioning, though Watson says this is something the company has discussed and hopes to implement down the road. Not only could captioning broaden Squad’s audience, but it could also further differentiate the app from messaging giants like iMessage and WhatsApp. 

Still, if you’re someone who loves to send voice messages in your group chats, you might want to get your friends on Squad. Currently, the app is invite-only with a waitlist. Once you’re off the waitlist, you get three invites. If you post for five days straight, you get three more invites, and if someone you invited signs up, you get two more invites as well. This continues until you round out your twelve-member squad.

#aaron-levie, #apps, #computing, #dispo, #facebook, #freeware, #harrison-metal, #imessage, #jen-rubio, #katrina-lake, #michael-dearing, #mobile-applications, #operating-systems, #social-media, #software, #united-states, #venture-capital, #whatsapp

Amid controversy, Dispo confirms Series A funding, high-profile advisors, and investors

It’s only been nine months since Dispo rebranded from David’s Disposables. But the vintage-inspired photo sharing app has experienced a whiplash of ups and downs, mostly due to the brand’s original namesake, YouTuber David Dobrik.

Like Clubhouse, Dispo was one of this year’s most hyped up new social apps, requiring an invite from an existing member to join. On March 9, when the company said “goodbye waitlist” and opened the app up to any iOS user, Dispo looked poised to be a worthy competitor to photo-sharing behemoths like Instagram. But, just one week later, Business Insider reported on sexual assault allegations regarding a member of Vlog Squad, a YouTube prank ensemble headed by Dispo co-founder David Dobrik. Dobrik had posted a now-deleted vlog about the night of the alleged assault, joking, “we’re all going to jail” at the end of the video.

It was only after venture capital firm Spark Capital decided to “sever all ties” with Dispo that Dobrik stepped down from the company board. In a statement made to TechCrunch at the time, Dispo said, “Dispo’s team, product, and most importantly — our community — stand for building a diverse, inclusive and empowering world.”

Dispo capitalizes on Gen Z and young millennial nostalgia for a time before digital photography, when we couldn’t take thirty selfies before choosing which one to post. On Dispo, when you take a photo, you have to wait until 9 AM the following day for the image to “develop,” and only then can you view and share it.

In both February and March of this year, the app hit the top ten of the Photo & Video category in the U.S. App Store. Despite the backlash against Dobrik, which resulted in the app’s product page being bombarded with negative comments, the app still hit the top ten in Germany, Japan, and Brazil, according to their press release. Dispo reportedly has not yet expended any international marketing resources.

Now, early investors in Dispo like Spark Capital, Seven Seven Six, and Unshackled have committed to donate any potential profits from their investment in the app to organizations working with survivors of sexual assault. Though Axios reported the app’s $20M Series A funding news in February, Dispo put out a press release this morning confirming the financing event. Though Seven Seven Six and Unshackled Ventures intend to donate profits from the app, they remain listed as investors, while Spark Capital is not. Other notable names involved in the project include high-profile photographers like Annie Leibovitz and Raven B. Varona, who has worked with artists like Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Actresses Cara Delevingne and Sofía Vergara, as well as NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, are also involved with the app as investors or advisors.

Dobrik’s role in the company was largely as a marketer – CEO Daniel Liss co-founded the app with Dobrik and has been leading the team since the beginning. After Dobrik’s departure, the Dispo team – which remains under twenty members strong – took a break from communications and product updates on the app. It’s expected that after today’s funding confirmation, the app will continue to roll out updates.

Dispo is quick to shift focus to the work of their team, which they call “some of the most talented, diverse leaders in consumer tech.” With the capital from this funding round, they hope to hire more staff to become more competitive with major social media apps with expansive teams, like Instagram and TikTok, and to experiment with machine learning. They will also likely have some serious marketing to do, now that their attempt at influencer marketing has failed massively.

Now more than ever, Dispo is promoting the app as a mental health benefit, hoping to shift the tide away from manufactured perfectionism toward more authentic social media experiences.

“A new era of start ups must emerge to end the scourge of big tech’s destruction of our political fabric and willful ignorance of its impact on body dysmorphia and mental health,” CEO Daniel Liss writes in a Substack post titled Dispo 2.0. “Imagine a world where Dispo is the social network of choice for every teen and college student in the world. How different a world would that be?”

But, for an app that propelled to success off the fame of a YouTuber with a history of less than savory behavior, that messaging might fall flat.

According to Sensor Tower, the highest Dispo has ever ranked in the Photo & Video category on the U.S. App Store was in January 2020, when it was still called David’s Disposables. The app ranked No. 1 in that category from January 7 to January 9, and on January 8, it reached No. 1 among all free iPhone apps.

#advisors, #andre-iguodala, #annie-leibovitz, #app-store, #apps, #brazil, #ceo, #co-founder, #computing, #david-dobrik, #digital-photography, #dispo, #freeware, #germany, #instagram, #internet-culture, #japan, #kevin-durant, #mobile-applications, #national-basketball-association, #nba, #social-media, #software, #spark-capital, #techcrunch, #united-states, #unshackled-ventures, #venture-capital, #world-wide-web

The disconnect between Y Combinator Demo Day and due diligence

Within 48 hours, the startup world experienced two momentous events: Y Combinator’s largest Demo Day ever, and the early investor exodus of Dispo, a photo-sharing app. Both events, while seemingly unrelated, taught us a lot about the importance, and difficulty, of due diligence in our current world.

For background, early investors in Dispo distanced from the startup after a key investigation unearthed allegations around co-creator and popular YouTuber, David Dobrik. Per venture capitalists I spoke to, the move to “sever all ties” with Dispo was unprecedented.

So what’s the impact here? It’s a rude awakening on the importance of due diligence. On Equity, I argued that the Dispo news should nudge venture capitalists to do a more thorough job with vetting founders in the future. Dobrik’s questionable “pranks” were always a search away.

Even though one person doesn’t represent an entire company (Dispo’s team seems great, for what it’s worth), investors still left because of what their money represented. Fast forward, this event could have a chilling effect on VCs working with celebrities or influencers. The liability just seems too huge to back a startup led by potentially problematic individuals, so either stay away or do your homework.

Well, you’d think. Ironically, 24 hours after Dispo investors backed away from the startup was YC Demo Day, one of the marquee startup events of the year. My colleague joked that founders don’t simply need to figure out how to get into Y Combinator anymore — they need to figure out how to stand out in the batch once they get there. The comment, made in jest, underscored a truth about the current startup funding environment: too noisy to handle.

Noise turned into free-for-all investments. One investor got an email from a batch company saying essentially, “thanks for your interest, if you want to invest here’s a document, no due diligence required.” The startup was valued at $100 million. Another investor I spoke to said that a company asked for an investment without meeting the VC.

While these are only anecdotes, I think these pitches are illustrative of the disconnect between the importance of due diligence and the hype cycle we are in. As Dispo showed us, it’s net positive to vet your future partner, back the right startups and bring on the right money. As YC Demo Day showed us, it’s hard to go slow when you can go fast. If the money is dangling in front of you, how do you say no?

I don’t have a solution to the disconnect, and ultimately the change comes down to the ethos of individual investors and founders. But at minimum, this week of extremes gives a dose of reality to startup mania right now.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll focus on a five-month unicorn, and Plaid’s harmony at Discord’s cost. As always, you can find me on Twitter @nmasc_. 

Image Credits: Getty Images

‘From launch to unicorn in 5 months’

Pacaso, a startup that wants to make it easier for people to have second home ownership, has reached a $1 billion valuation in just five months. The startup essentially wants to reinvent timeshares, with the goal of “bringing together a small group of co-owners to purchase a share of a single-family home” with access throughout the year, Mary Ann Azevedo reports.

You can get Startups Weekly in your inbox every Saturday, so subscribe here to join the cool kids

Here’s what to know: The proptech unicorns are here to stay. My colleague Eric Eldon wrote about real estate trends, from co-living to a suburban-style living boom.

Colorful bar and light trails composed on the collaged circuit boards. It’s images of big data in Cyber City. Image Credits: Hiroshi Watanabe / Getty Images

Exits, and Plaid’s lack thereof

Even an ol’ enterprise giant wants to remind you that community matters. Microsoft is reportedly trying to scoop up Discord, in deal talks that would value the latter at $10 billion. The startup was last valued at $7 billion.

Here’s what to know: The deal price feels slightly cheap, argues the Equity trio. When you consider the fact that Plaid could be valued at almost double or triple for what it was going to be sold to Visa, one has to wonder if Discord has an anti-trust discount limiting its pricing.

discord illustration

Image Credits: Discord

Around TechCrunch

  • Here’s a discount code to our TechCrunch Early Stage conference, our two-day virtual event for founders, investors and operators. Use code “TCARTICLE” to get 20% off your ticket so you can attend super-cool events like how to bootstrap with Calendly’s Tope Awotona and OpenView’s Blake Bartlett, how to pitch your Series A fundraise with Kleiner Perkins’ Bucky Moore (moderated by moi) and finance for founders with Alexa von Tobel.
  • Grab super early-bird passes to TechCrunch Disrupt for less than $100. Equity might do something fun and special, who knows.
  • The TechCrunch List is a directory of the most active and engaged investors in the VC industry today as recommended by founders.

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Elon Musk declares you can now buy a Tesla with bitcoin in the US

Slack’s new DM feature Connect is thankfully opt-in

The Frankencloud model is our biggest security risk

As more artists and musicians turn their attention to NFTs, so, likely, do money launderers

Tableau CEO Adam Selipsky is returning to AWS to replace Andy Jassy as CEO

Seen on Extra Crunch

It’s time to abandon business intelligence tools

NFTs could bridge video games and the fashion industry

How VC and private equity funds can launch portfolio-acceleration platforms

Steady’s Adam Roseman and investor Emmalyn Shaw outline what worked (and what was missing) in the Series A deck

#demo-day, #dispo, #startups, #startups-weekly, #tc, #y-combinator

You can only invest if you promise not to read the fine print, ok?

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace were all here to chat through the week’s biggest tech happenings. News was right back up to a dull roar this week, so we did our best to trim and hone and just bring you the most important things.

Here’s the rundown:

Let’s all get some rest!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#bevy, #demo-day, #discord, #dispo, #dobrik, #equity, #equity-podcast, #finrise, #fundings-exits, #microsoft, #plaid, #ro, #robinhood, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

Daily Crunch: Investors back away from Dispo

Dispo is in the midst of a sexual assault controversy, Zoom introduces an SDK and Android owners will have to continue waiting for Clubhouse access. This is your Daily Crunch for March 22, 2021.

The big story: Investors back away from Dispo

After a recent story in Business Insider brought allegations to light that a member of David Dobrik’s vlog squad had sexually assaulted an extra during a shoot, Spark Capital announced that it would “sever all ties” with Dobrik’s photo-sharing startup Dispo, as did fellow investors Unshackled Ventures and Seven Seven Six.

“We have stepped down from our position on the board and we are in the process of making arrangements to ensure we do not profit from our recent investment in Dispo,” said Spark, which led a $20 million Series A in Dispo less than a month ago. That means any potential profits will be donated to organizations supporting survivors of sexual assault.

Dobrik, meanwhile, has stepped down from the Dispo board and left the company.

The tech giants

Zoom introduces new SDK to help developers tap into video services — The company envisions application developers embedding video in social, gaming or retail applications.

Next Billion Users head Caesar Sengupta is leaving Google — Sengupta, who also led the company’s payments business, is leaving the firm after nearly 15 years.

Tim Cook and Tim Sweeney among potential witnesses for Apple/Epic trial — A proposed witness list filed by Apple for its upcoming trial against game-maker Epic reads like a who’s who of executives from the two companies.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Side raises $150M at $1B valuation to help real estate agents go it alone — Side works to turn agents and independent brokerages into boutique brands and businesses.

Indonesian savings and investment app Pluang gets $20M in pre-Series B funding — The company offers proprietary savings and investment products that allow users to make contributions starting from 50 cents USD.

Clubhouse says its Android launch will take ‘a couple of months’ — Clubhouse co-founder Paul Davison said the company is working “really hard” to come to Android, but said it’s going to take a “couple of months” to make that happen.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

NFTs could bridge video games and the fashion industry — Real-life fashion brands use NFTs for marketing in virtual worlds like Minecraft, as well as in several Atari and Microsoft video games.

ironSource is going public via a SPAC and its numbers are pretty good — Before you tune out to avoid reading about yet another blank-check company taking a private company public, you’ll want to pay attention to this one.

Where is the e-commerce app ecosystem headed in 2021? — Superapps are likely to emerge, according to PipeCandy’s Ashwin Ramasamy.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

US privacy, consumer, competition and civil rights groups urge ban on ‘surveillance advertising’ — Nearly 40 organizations expressed their concern in an open letter.

Five reasons you should attend TC Early Stage 2021 in April — We’re just days away from kicking off TC Early Stage 2021: Operations & Fundraising on April 1-2.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #dispo, #spark-capital, #startups, #venture-capital

Early investors in Dispo to donate any profits from the photo-sharing app

After Spark Capital announced it would ‘sever all ties’ with Dispo following allegations around co-creator and famous YouTuber David Dobrik, two of the app’s earliest investors have similarly backed away from the company. Seven Seven Six and Unshackled followed suit this morning, releasing subsequent statements that they plan to donate any profits from investments to organizations working with survivors of sexual assault.

Seven Seven Six, an early-stage venture capital firm founded by Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian, released a statement on Monday morning saying that the allegations against Dobrik are “extremely troubling” and are “directly at odds” with the firm’s core values.

“We have made the decision to donate any profits from our investment in Dispo to an organization working with survivors of sexual assault. We have believed in Dispo’s mission since the beginning and will continue to support the hardworking team bringing it to life,” according to the firm’s statement. Ohanian has retweeted the statement from his personal account but has offered no separate statement.

Unshackled Ventures similarly tells TechCrunch that the firm will donate any profits from the investment in Dispo to organizations focused on survivors of sexual assault.

The firm pointed to Maitri, an organization that supports women survivors, as one place it plans to donate to.

“We are a female majority team that does not take this lightly. We are in full support of their decision to part ways with David,” per the statement. It is unclear how Spark Capital, which similarly is in the process of making sure it doesn’t profit from Dispo, will be handling its financial stake as well. Spark was unable to be reached for clarification.

The company was last valued at $200 million with Spark Capital-led $20 million Series A financing just weeks ago. Dispo released a statement last night stating that Dobrik has stepped down from the board of Dispo and leave the company. It is unclear if Dobrik still has a financial stake in the company through ownership and if he plans to divest.


#alexis-ohanian, #david-dobrik, #dispo, #seven-seven-six, #spark, #tc, #unshackled, #venture

Equity Monday: Deliveroo sets IPO price range as we gear up for Y Combinator week

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This is Equity Monday, our weekly kickoff that tracks the latest private market news, talks about the coming week, digs into some recent funding rounds and mulls over a larger theme or narrative from the private markets. You can follow the show on Twitter here and myself here.

If you are paying attention to Y Combinator’s demo day this week, our primer is here. And our Friday news roundup is here. With that, let’s get into the news:

Coming Wednesday we are digging into equity crowdfunding. Which is going to be hot shit. Get ready.

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#aldea-ventures, #clarify-health, #deliveroo, #dispo, #equity, #equity-podcast, #etoro, #fundings-exits, #happify-health, #ironsource, #nuvemshop, #sivo, #startups