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The Gen Z influencers on hand had the most Instagram-able backdrop imaginable: The sun setting over the Pacific, as seen from the top deck of a cruising yacht on a clear, early summer evening.
And yet, the young content creators were discouraged from snapping the perfect selfie. This was a party thrown by Poparazzi—a social media platform meant for people to post “authentic” pictures of their friends, instead of carefully edited shots of themselves. Launched almost exactly a year ago, the startup rented the yacht for its anniversary soirée on Friday, where waiters served hors d’oeuvres while wearing black shirts that read “Anti Selfie Selfie Club.”
Marina del Rey-based Poparazzi is among a new crop of social media apps aimed at people who are put off by the polished content and pressure to portray their best selves found on apps like Instagram. The buzzy upstart in the space at the moment is BeReal, which prompts users at random times to take one unedited picture a day. Another competitor is Dispo, which mimics a disposable camera. Poparazzi’s play, meanwhile, is to not allow users to share photos of themselves—with their profiles solely populated by pictures and videos posted by others.
“In the world with Instagram and TikTok, I think people are craving a place on the internet where they can just be themselves and not feel like they’re competing for likes or comments,” Poparazzi co-founder and CEO Alex Ma told dot.LA.
Poparazzi generated a lot of hype when it debuted at the top of Apple’s App Store last May. It has since lost steam; Poparazzi was only no. 105 in the App Store’s Photo and Video category as of Tuesday. But Ma said the app is growing and remains especially popular among teens; it recently surpassed 5 million registered accounts, he said, while 95% of its active user base is under the age of 21. (Ma declined to share the number of active users.) In its most recent funding round, Poparazzi raised $15 million in a Benchmark-led Series A shortly after its launch last year.
The startup faces a ton of competition, and not just from other fledgling photo-sharing apps. It also must compete with entrenched social media incumbents like Culver City-based TikTok and Santa Monica-based Snap, which regularly add new features—including copycats of their rivals. One could argue that Poparazzi is fighting for eyeballs against a broader array of entertainment and media firms, too.
“Our fundamental mechanic is not allowing you to post yourself, so it’s less about self-promotion and thinking about your audience,” Ma said about what separates his product in a crowded landscape. “We felt like that mechanic is what depressurizes social [media] the most, so that’s our angle.”
But if Poparazzi is less about promoting yourself and your audience, then why the yacht full of influencers? Ma said the company wants to spread the word of Poparazzi, while its influencers also find the app useful for connecting with the people they’re closest to.
“Influencers have friends, too,” he said. — Christian Hetrick