With Amo, the founder of Zenly wants to make social apps social again

In 2018, I wrote a TechCrunch article says 2018 will be “the year social networks stop being social.” Reflecting on that article, I’m not sure 2018 is the turning point. But the premise of the article remains sound.

At some point, social networks are no longer about connecting with your best friends, keeping up with distant family members and feeling a special connection with the people you love.

TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube and X (formerly Twitter) are slowly evolving to become the same endless scrollable feed of algorithm-optimized short videos from top performers.

And it turns out that I am not the only one who has noticed that social networks are slowly drifting away from their original purpose. bossa small team based in Paris, has been working for the better part of 2023 on a new social app called id.

ID is a social app launched today on iOS that allows you to connect with your friends in a creative way. In many ways, it feels like the early days of blogs, the highly personal profile pages of MySpace and the golden age of Tumblr.

But first, some context about Amo. There has been a lot of hype and anticipation surrounding Amo’s launch since the company was co-founded Antoine Martinwho is the co-founder of Zenly with Alexis Bonillo. Zenly is a popular social app focused on location sharing that encourages you to spend more time with your friends and discover new places.

Snap spent more than $200 million to acquire Zenly and kept the same team to transform it, as a separate app. Under the ownership of Snap, Zenly became one of the biggest social apps in Europe of all time. At its peak the company had 18 million different users opening the app every day.

And then… it disappeared.

As part of Snap’s cost-cutting efforts, the company decided to shut down Zenly entirely. From what I’ve heard, this move has sparked discussions between French politicians at the highest levels and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel. Many key members of the Zenly team are now working at Amo.

The second reason why Amo’s launch is so anticipated is that the startup closed an $18 million funding round in February or March at a cost of nearly $100 million with New Wave leading the round, and coat and DST Global also participates. There are also 80 angel investors on Amo’s cap table.

This is a unique funding round because it takes place in 2023 (during a downturn in VC funding), Amo is a mobile consumer startup (no source of income at the moment) and the startup has no any product out there.

An empty canvas

In 2010, Jürgen Schweizer from Cultural Codethe company behind the personal task management app Things, wrote a blog post shortly after Steve Jobs introduced the original iPad. In that post, he compared the iPad to an empty canvas.

“If you want to understand what makes the iPad special, you can’t look at what’s on it, but at what it is not there is. The iPad is so thin and light, it becomes the display, and the display becomes the application. No input device. The device will disappear and become the application you are using. The technology is transparent,” Schweizer wrote.

And this analogy applies especially to ID and Employer as well. There are many things you can do with ID. There are also many things that we take for granted in a social app that is not there.

ID is a blank canvas paired with creative tools that help you express yourself. You can use it to create a profile that perfectly describes your interests visually. But there is a social twist because you can see your friends’ profiles and add things to their own profiles.

Image Credits: Romain Dillet

When you first create your ID profile, you get an empty whiteboard waiting for content. You can fill it yourself in four different ways.

You can add stickers from your sticker library (more on that later), you can extract content from your photo library, you can write text or you can draw. When you select a photo, ID automatically creates a cut-out of the main object or subject of the photo being used PhotoRoom technology.

It will immediately feel familiar to Pinterest users who like to build mood boards or software developers who cover their new laptop lid with stickers.

Every virtual object can be moved, resized and rotated. After a while, your profile becomes this kind of spatial canvas. You can make things so small that they disappear…unless you zoom in.

You can create little islands that explain what’s on your mind right now. For example, you can have a corner of Los Angeles with your favorite buildings you saw during your vacation, group photos with your friends, the cup of your favorite coffee shop there, etc. restaurants you’ve been to recently.

Everything feels smooth and natural. You scroll, zoom in, zoom out, jump from one profile to another. There is a sense of depth and space that I have never seen in any other app. Photos never feel pixelated and you never feel like you’re waiting for them to load.

If you’ve been using ID for a while, things can get messy – but so is life. “And that’s fine. My personality is chaotic — our personalities are chaotic. They are numerous and poorly arranged in a 3×3 grid,” said Amo CEO Antoine Martin.

Emergent gameplay

As you start browsing around the app and seeing what’s new on your friends’ profile pages, you can steal something for your own wall. ID allows you to add content from other profiles to your sticker library so you can add it to your own profile or place it on someone else’s profile.

I’ve been using the app for a little over a week, and I’ve already seen some trends spread around the small community of beta users. You can see who originally made the sticker as it moves from one wall to another. Some users put up beautiful shelves so that they can neatly classify everything that is important to them. A user has created a guestbook section on his profile. “If you come, please leave a note here,” he wrote.

Some video games rely heavily on the player’s creativity to enjoy, such as Minecraft or the recent Zelda games. In these games, you can build your own castle or build your own car.

And that is also the main concept behind ID. Amo gives you creative tools and an unlimited Figma-like canvas. Now, it’s up to the community what they want to do with it. And the best part is that it’s not like any other social app out there.

Image Credits: Romain Dillet

Perhaps Amo will end up fostering a creator economy with exclusive content that will make your profile stand out. Maybe the company will add some premium features over time. Right now, Amo wants to find a hit.

“We prioritized scale because my goal was to create an indestructible company. And Zenly’s founder said that! I used to think that 18 million (daily active users) was enough to do the an indestructible company. But I was wrong. I think you need 100 million (daily active users),” Martin told me.

Cure loneliness

When the Amo team started working on ID, they wanted to find a way to treat loneliness. It seems a little counter-intuitive to create a social app because people already spend so much time on their phones. But, according to Antoine Martin, it’s just that existing social apps don’t have your best interests in mind.

“The (World Health Organization) is now calling it an epidemic of loneliness. And when they say it’s an epidemic, it’s because it’s contagious. In other words, if you’re lonely, so are your loved ones because “You can’t be reached. That’s why the two hours you’re on TikTok, they don’t talk to anyone,” Martin told me.

“And at the same time, human needs to be fulfilled in the social space of consumers are no longer covered by these products, as they were before,” he added. “In the early days of Facebook, I don’t know if you remember, profiles were a mash-up. There were drawings, games, photos, text. You would write long comments, it could be a poem. . . And on the other hand, it’s a reminder that you are important to these people.”

According to him, today’s generation is very passive in social networks. You don’t need to spend two hours on TikTok or YouTube because these companies want you to spend as much time as possible on these apps. “We want to go back to these earlier rules and make them work,” Martin said.

This is also the reason why Amo doesn’t want you to spend a long time in the app. If you have a few minutes, you can open the app to check what’s new on your friends’ profiles by swiping through the notification cards.

When you reach the last card, the ID will show you a message that says “get some fresh air.” And then, the app closes itself. You’re back on the home screen, you can put your phone back in your pocket.

Image Credits: Romain Dillet

Employer & ID

ID is an opinion takeover of social apps, but does it work? Given the team’s past experience and Amo’s deep pockets, if there’s one team that has the drive to try something new in the space, it’s Amo.

“We deliberately sent something 8 or 9 months after the launch of the company because we swore to ourselves that we would not take a year to start, that we would learn more by building the public,” said Martin.

While ID was Amo’s first idea, the company likely has other ideas in the consumer social space – Amo didn’t name its app ‘Amo’ after all. So it will be interesting to follow the launch of this new app, but also the story of Amo as a company.

Image Credits: boss

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