After Fast Start, Social App Poparazzi Sees Slowdown


Poparazzi, a photo sharing app developed by Marina del Rey-based TTYL Inc., is among this year’s most hyped social media startups.

But the app’s easy-to-replicate features and privacy concerns raised by users may pose a challenge to its long-term relevance.

The goal of Poparazzi — which restricts access to users’ front-facing cameras to prevent them from taking selfies — is to strip away the pressure of posting perfect images on social media.

The app launched on May 24 and quickly catapulted to the top of the App Store, hitting No. 1 overall and in the photo and video app category in the United States.
Soon after, TTYL reportedly raised a $20 million Series A round with funding led by San Francisco-based venture capital firm Benchmark Capital, which has also backed Santa Monica-based Snap Inc., Uber Technologies Inc. and Twitter Inc. The funding led to a valuation of about $135 million for TTYL.

Poparazzi follows in the footsteps of other social media apps that have launched this year, including Dispo, an app created by Santa Monica-based Dispo Inc. that mimics the functionality of a disposable camera, and audio app Clubhouse, founded by San Francisco-based Alpha Exploration Co. Dispo has raised a total of $24 million while Clubhouse has raised $110 million to date.

Poparazzi and Dispo both encourage users to share more true-to-life images and more candid moments.

“We built Poparazzi to take away the pressure to be perfect,” the company said in its launch-day blog post. “We did this by not allowing you to post photos of yourself, putting the emphasis where it should’ve been all along: on the people you’re with. On Poparazzi, you are your friend’s paparazzi, and they are yours.”

Brothers Alex and Austen Ma and Zay Turner founded TTYL in 2018. The company raised $2 million that year in seed funding led by Floodgate Fund.  

After its hot start, Poparazzi is showing signs of losing steam. As of mid-July, it was ranked No. 41 on the App Store’s photo and video charts where it faces competition from giants like YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch, along with ancillary third-
party apps offering popular add-on features for those programs, like editing tools and collage layouts.

Poparazzi offers a different experience from those better-known brands. Instead of posting photos that they’ve taken of themselves, Poparazzi users curate their profiles based on photos taken by others.

Users cannot see each other’s follower count or likes and can’t comment on photos. Instead, they can react to photos with emojis displayed underneath each image. The number of views on a user’s profile is also displayed.

While the app’s initial popularity and high valuation signaled that Poparazzi could become the next big social media craze, William O’Neil & Co. Inc. internet and media research analyst Derek Higa said Poparazzi might not have staying power.
The app’s features, he said, could be easily copied by larger tech companies.

“We kind of saw that with Clubhouse, where it got a lot of popularity, there are high evaluations for the company, but then it fizzled out a little bit because basically Twitter copied them and created spaces,” Higa said. “There’s a big copying thing that bigger companies have the assets to do.”  

Users have also begun to raise privacy concerns over how the app collects their data by automatically following every contact in a user’s contact list who has a Poparazzi profile. There’s an opt-out option in the onboarding process, but Higa said these concerns could dissuade consumers from engaging with the app.

“I think that’s one of the main concerns for users. They’ll give it a try, but you’re giving up privacy to just use the app, and people are having second thoughts about that,” Higa said.

Still, Poparazzi’s mission and the timing of its launch were bound to catch attention, Higa added. 

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