Dispo, a new photo sharing app that mimics the experience of using a disposable camera, is taking off. People are asking for invitations to test the beta. Early adopters praise its social characteristics. And investors are betting big on its future.
In the app, users frame photos through a small rectangular viewfinder. There are no editing tools or captions; when the images “develop” – that is, appear on your phone at 9 am the next day – you get what you get. Several people can take photos on the same roll, as can happen with a real disposable camera at a party.
“When I went to parties with my friends, they had disposable cameras all over the house and they kept people taking pictures all night long,” said David Dobrik, a YouTube star and founder of the application. “In the morning they would collect all the cameras, look at the footage and say, ‘What happened last night? (He used an expletive to underline.)
He and his friends loved the chance to scroll through fleeting and forgotten moments. “It would be like the end of ‘The Hangover’ every morning,” said Mr. Dobrik, 24. He started posting his developed photographs on a dedicated Instagram account in June 2019 and quickly racked up millions of followers. Other influencers and celebrities, including Tana Mongeau and Gigi Hadid, quickly opened their own “disposable” accounts; their fans followed suit.
Sensing a trend, Mr Dobrik sought to digitally recreate the disposable camera experience, as an antidote to the obsession with getting the perfect shot. “You never looked at the picture, you never checked the lighting,” he said of using disposables. “You continued with your day and in the morning you have to relive it.
In December 2019, he launched a photo app called David’s Disposable, which allowed people to take retro photos that “developed” overnight. Its first results suggested that the model had greater potential. So over the course of a year it was developed into Dispo, a full-fledged social network that began beta testing with the public last Friday.
Although the latest version of Dispo has only been available to the public for less than a week, it is already generating a buzz. The app rose through the ranks in Apple’s App Store this week. Dispo-themed chat rooms have appeared on Clubhouse. YouTubers share reviews, invitation scoring tips, and growth hacks. Just as VSCO gave birth to the daughter VSCO, Dispo produced a stable of “Dispo boys”. Some photos from Dispo have even entered the online art market as NFTs or “non-fungible tokens”.
Beta users of the app have praised its restraint. “I feel like the photos are just simpler,” said Goldie Chan, 38, the founder of Warm Robots, a social strategy agency in Los Angeles. “Apps like Clubhouse are so loud, literally. When you have something like Dispo or VSCO, you just take pictures. You can take a moment in time and let go. “
This abandonment of highly organized flows has been underway for several years. In 2019, the rise of ‘relatable’ YouTubers like Emma Chamberlain helped create a wacky and irreverent editing style that became the default for Gen Z. And throughout 2020, TikTok spawned to a new wave of designers more focused on personality than perfection.
“Where Instagram filters in 2011 made everyone look good, TikTok filters in 2021 make everyone ugly,” Rex Woodbury, principal at Index Ventures, recently wrote. “And where Instagram has given you filters to make your bad photos look good, Dispo deliberately makes your good photos worse.”
Anyha Garcia, a 31-year-old stay-at-home mom from Utah, started using Dispo a week ago. She is a fan of its simplicity. “I don’t have to sit down and crop it or edit it,” she says. “I’m taking a photo and I hope it turns out. I can go back and watch it later instead of looking at it now and making those adjustments or worrying about taking 10-12 more pictures of what I’m trying to capture. “
People also emphasized collaboration. “Insta has made everyone a general photographer. Dispo makes you a photographer with a purpose, ”said Terry O’Neal, 31, a brand manager in Los Angeles who used the app. He created several color-themed films and asked other users to help him find items that match each theme. “This is where community building is, everyone is looking for the same thing through their own lens,” he said.
“The great thing with Dispo is the collaborative rolls,” said Luke Yun, 31, director of social media in Los Angeles. “People find ways to be creative together. It’s like an innate contest to outdo each other in these community rolls that I’ve never seen on any social network. “
While Dispo’s photos do not have captions, the comment sections in collaborative films can be animated. There are scrolls where people are invited to guess the story behind each photo, or comment with song lyrics that match the mood of a picture. Another scroll contains photos of handwritten notes meant to spark conversation.
The social network has avoided the growing spam hacking culture that often emerges on startup apps, and the Easter eggs in its screen poke fun at the obsession with increasing its settings. Mr. Dobrik, for example, appears to have 69 million followers and photos and 420 likes on Dispo.
However, small collectives of creators have emerged. “I created a list called Dispo Hype Group where we added everyone and accepted everyone’s invitation,” Ms. Garcia said. The group, which includes around 40 people, hope to arrange an IRL meeting when it is safe to do so.
Dispo has already started to expand internationally, particularly in Japan, where the company plans to open an office. Although currently only eight people, the startup’s rapid expansion has made it an attractive target for venture capitalists.
In a seed funding round in October, led by company Seven Seven Six, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Dispo raised $ 4 million. This week, the company raised $ 20 million for a valuation of $ 200 million in a Series A funding round led by Spark Capital, according to Axios. Dispo has also had talks with other large venture capitalists, including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and Benchmark, according to The Information.
As the app continues to grow, Dispo executives are committed to ensuring that the app remains a safe and open space for its users. “Trust and security is something that is extremely important to us and will be a top priority,” said Daniel Liss, 32, CEO of Dispo. “To say that we don’t have a position on trust and security is not enough. For our community and our shareholders, this is unacceptable.
“This is a position I am hiring for before any investor asks me, because it is important to me, David and our team,” he added.
While there is always competition and imitators, Mr. Dobrik believes that what Dispo offers is something that photo filters cannot duplicate.
“When you see a disposable photo, you know it’s real and it wasn’t made or mounted,” he said. “It just happened and it was captured. This is what makes it so exciting.