It’s only been nine months since Dispo was renamed David’s Disposable. But the vintage-inspired photo-sharing app has had its ups and downs, mostly because of the brand’s original namesake, YouTuber David Dobrik.
Like Clubhouse, Dispo was one of the hottest new social apps of this year, requiring an invitation from an existing member to join. On March 9, when the company said “goodbye waiting list”And opened the app to any iOS user, Dispo looked set to be a worthy competitor to photo-sharing giants like Instagram. But, a week later, Business Insider reported sexual assault allegations against a member of Vlog Squad, a YouTube prank set run by Dispo co-founder David Dobrik. Dobrik had posted a now-deleted vlog on the night of the alleged assault, jokingly, “we all go 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 resigned from the company’s board of directors. In a statement to TechCrunch at the time, Dispo said, “The team, the product and, most importantly, our community, at Dispo are advocating for building a diverse, inclusive and empowering world.”
Dispo capitalizes on Gen Z and the nostalgia of the millennials before digital photography, when we couldn’t take 30 selfies before deciding which one to post. On Dispo, when you take a photo, you have to wait 9 hours the next day for the image to “develop” and only then can you view and share it.
In February and March of this year, the app reached the top 10 in the Photo & Video category in the US App Store. Despite the backlash against Dobrik, which resulted in the app’s product page being bombarded with negative reviews, the app still reached the top 10 in Germany, Japan and Brazil, according to their press release. Dispo would not have spent international marketing resources yet.
Now, Dispo’s early investors like Spark Capital, Seven Seven Six, and Unshackled have pledged to donate any potential profits from their investment in the app to organizations working with survivors of sexual assault. Although Axios announced the app’s $ 20 million Series A fundraising news in February, Dispo this morning issued a press release confirming the fundraising event. Seven Seven Six and Unshackled Ventures remain listed as investors, unlike Spark Capital. 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 Sofia Vergara, as well as NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala, are also involved in the app as investors or advisers.
Dobrik’s role in the company was primarily that of a marketer – CEO Daniel Liss co-founded the app with Dobrik and has been leading the team from the start. After Dobrik left, the Dispo team – which remains under 20 strong – took a break from communications and product updates on the app. It is expected that after confirmation of funding today, the app will continue to roll out updates.
Dispo is quick to focus on the work of his team, whom they call “some of the most talented and diverse leaders in consumer technology.” With the capital from this funding round, they hope to hire more staff to become more competitive with major social media apps with extended teams, like Instagram and TikTok, and experiment with machine learning. They’ll likely have some serious marketing to do as well, now that their influencer marketing attempt has been overwhelmingly unsuccessful.
Now more than ever, Dispo is promoting the app as a mental health benefit, in hopes of pushing away fabricated perfectionism towards more authentic social media experiences.
“A new era of startups must emerge to end the scourge of big-tech destruction of our political fabric and willful ignorance of its impact on body dysmorphia and mental health,” wrote CEO Daniel Liss in a Substack article titled Dispo 2.0. “Imagine a world where Dispo is the social network of choice for all teens and students around the world. How different would this world be? “
But, for an app that has propelled the fame of a YouTuber with a history of less than tasty behavior to success, that post might fall flat.
According to Sensor Tower, the highest Availability ever in the Photo & Video category on the US App Store was in January 2020, when it was still called David’s Disposable. The app ranked # 1 in this category from January 7-9, and on January 8, it reached # 1 among all free iPhone apps.