'They Felt so Much More Joy': Dispo Reintroduces Retro Camera Waiting Periods to an Instant-Gratification Generation
Francesca Billington is a dot.LA editorial intern. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
It's 2020 and waiting for photos to develop is cool again.
That's at least what investors in a $4 million seed round for the "disposable camera" app Dispo hope. The Los Angeles-based platform co-founded by hit YouTuber David Dobrik announced Wednesday it closed a funding round led by Alexis Ohanian's venture fund Seven Seven Six.
The app, previously known as David's Disposables, has seen 2.6 million downloads since launching on Christmas Day last year. It's a camera app that makes users wait a day for their photos to "develop," recreating the anticipation of waiting to pick up a roll of film.
"You can remember a time when you'd get disposable photos back from the pharmacy and there was this Christmas morning feeling where you were rifling through the photos and finding that one perfect shot," co-founder and CEO Daniel Liss told dot.LA.
Most Dispo users are teenagers and college students, a generation that doesn't know life without cell phones and digital cameras. Liss said they've taken to the company's concept partly because they're fans of Dobrik, 24, who has a fanbase among Generation Z. The media celebrity has over seven million followers across social media platforms.
Last week, Dobrik gave away five Teslas through an event with the voter-registration nonprofit HeadCount. Liss said that event alone brought in 10% of all Headcount's voter registrations since it was launched.
Dispo team members. Top left to right: David Dobrik, Daniel Liss, Natalie MariduenaBottom l to r: Regynald Augustin, Alexis Ohanian, Briana HokansonCredit: Jack Dytrych / Briana Hokanson
The app ushers in a new — but actually old — way of taking photos.
"A lot of his friends, who have big followings, would be so focused on taking the perfect photo," Liss said about Dobrik. "They wanted their lips to look a certain way and their butt to look a different way and the lighting and the outfits and this and that."
So the influencer started arriving at parties in L.A. with disposable cameras instead. No immediate shots to nitpick over. The idea stuck.
"They felt better about the experience. They felt so much more joy."
With the new funding, Liss said the six-person Dispo team is working to expand into a social media platform with features like user profiles, direct messages and comments.
It's too early to think about competitors, said Liss, but he imagines the platform will rival any app that captures the time of young people: social media, YouTube, Netflix — even hanging out in real life.
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Minutes into filling out my absentee ballot last week, I was momentarily distracted by my dog Seamus. A moment later, I realized in horror that I was filling in the wrong bubble — accidentally voting "no" on a ballot measure that I meant to vote "yes" on.
It was only a few ink marks, but it was noticeable enough. Trying to fix my mistake, I darkly and fully filled in the correct circle and then, as if testifying to an error on a check, put my initials next to the one I wanted.
Then I worried. As a reporter who has previously covered election security for years, I went on a mini-quest trying to understand how a small mistake can have larger repercussions.
As Los Angeles County's 5.6 million registered voters all receive ballots at home for the first time, I knew my experience could not be unique. But I wondered, would my vote count? Or would my entire ballot now be discarded?
My distractingly sweet dog, Seamus.
Photo by Tami Abdollah
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Mike Esola is Fiction Riot's CEO
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