Dispo, a new photo sharing app that mimics the disposable camera experience, is launched. People are asking for invitations to test the beta version. Early adopters praise its social characteristics. And investors are betting heavily on their future.

In the app, users frame photos through a small rectangular viewfinder. There are no editing tools or labels. When the images “develop” – that is, when they appear on your phone at 9:00 the next day – you get what you get. Multiple people can take photos on the same roll, just like a real disposable camera can do at a party.

“When I went to parties with my friends, they had disposable cameras all over the house and they urged people to take pictures all night,” said David Dobrik, a YouTube star and founder of the app. “In the morning they gathered all the cameras and looked back at the footage and said, ‘What happened last night?'” (He used an explanation for emphasis.)

He and his friends loved the chance of scrolling through fleeting and forgotten moments. “It would be like the end of ‘The Hangover’ every morning,” said 24-year-old Dobrik. He started posting his developed photos to a dedicated Instagram account in June 2019 and quickly garnered millions of followers. Other influencers and celebrities, including Tana Mongeau and Gigi Hadid, soon opened their own “one-way” accounts. Your fans followed suit.

Sensing a trend, Mr Dobrik tried to digitally recreate the single-use camera experience as an antidote to the obsession with getting the perfect shot. “You never looked at the picture, you never checked the lights,” he said of the use of single-use items. “You have just resumed your day and in the morning you have to relive it.”

In December 2019, he introduced a photo app called David’s Disposable that allowed people to take retro pictures that “evolved” overnight. The early episodes suggested that the model had greater potential. Over the course of a year, it was developed into Dispo, a full-fledged social network that began beta testing for 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 excitement. The app went up on Apple’s App Store this week. Discussion rooms on the subject of dispo have appeared in the clubhouse. YouTubers share reviews, tips on rating invites, and growth hacks. Just as VSCO produced the VSCO girl, Dispo produced a stable with “Dispo boys”. Some photos from Dispo even came onto the online art market as NFTs or “non-fungible tokens”.

The beta users of the app praised their reluctance. “I think photos are just easier,” said Goldie Chan, 38, founder of Warm Robots, a Los Angeles social strategy agency. “Apps like Clubhouse are literally that loud. If you have something like Dispo or VSCO, just take photos. You can click and release for a moment in time. “

This move away from highly curated feeds has been in the works for several years. In 2019, the rise of “relatable” YouTubers like Emma Chamberlain helped develop a goofy and irreverent editing style that became the standard for Gen Z. Over the course of 2020, TikTok spawned a new wave of developers who were more focused on personality than perfection.

“Where Instagram filters made everyone beautiful in 2011, TikTok filters made everyone ugly in 2021,” wrote Rex Woodbury, principal at Index Ventures, recently. “And where Instagram has given you filters so that your bad photos look good, Dispo deliberately makes your good photos look worse.”

Anyha Garcia, a 31-year-old mother who stays at home in Utah, started using Dispo a week ago. She is a fan of its simplicity. “I don’t have to sit and prune or edit it,” she said. “I’ll take a picture and hopefully it will turn out. I can go back and see it later instead of looking at it now and making those changes or worrying about taking 10-12 more photos of the thing I want to take a picture of. “

People also made the app’s focus on collaboration. “Insta made everyone a general photographer. Dispo makes you a photographer with a purpose, ”said Terry O’Neal, 31, a Los Angeles brand manager who used the app. He has created several color-themed camera rolls and asked other users to help him find objects that fit each theme. “That’s where the community building is. Everyone is looking for the same thing through their own lens,” he said.

“The big thing about Dispo is collaboration,” said Luke Yun, 31, a social media director in Los Angeles. “People find ways to be creative together. It is like an innate competition to outdo one another in these community roles that I have never seen on any social network. “

Although Dispos photos don’t include captions, the comment areas of collaborative camera rolls can be alive. There are roles where people are asked to guess the story behind each photo or to comment on with lyrics that they think match the mood of a picture. Another roll contains photos of handwritten notes intended to stimulate conversation.

The social network has avoided the spam growth hack culture common in early-stage apps, and Easter eggs on its display poke fun at the obsession with improving one’s metrics. Mr Dobrik, for example, seems to have 69 million followers and photos and 420 likes on Dispo.

However, small creator collectives have emerged. “I created a role called Dispo Hype Group where we added everyone and accepted everyone’s invitation,” said Ms. Garcia. The group, of around 40 people, is hoping to organize an IRL meeting when it is safe to do so.

Dispo has already started to expand internationally, particularly in Japan, where the company is planning to open an office. Although it’s currently only an eight-person company, the startup’s rapid expansion has made it an attractive destination for venture capitalists.

In a seed funding round in October led by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s company Seven Seven Six, Dispo raised $ 4 million. This week, according to Axios, the company raised $ 20 million on a $ 200 million valuation in a Series A funding round led by Spark Capital. Dispo has also held talks with other large venture firms, including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Benchmark, according to The Information.

As the app continues to grow, those in charge at Dispo are committed to ensuring that the app remains a safe and open space for its users. “Trust and security are something that are incredibly important to us and that will be a relentless focus,” said Daniel Liss, 32, CEO of Dispo. “It is not good enough to say that we do not have a position on trust and security.” This is unacceptable to our community and shareholders. “

“It’s a position that I hire before an investor has asked me because it matters to me, David and our team,” he added.

Although there will always be competition and copycats, Mr Dobrik believes that what Dispo is offering is something that photo filters cannot replicate.

“When you see a single-use photo, you know it’s real and not made or compiled,” he said. “It just happened and was captured. That’s what makes it so exciting. “