Zenly’s founders want to make social apps social again with Amo


In 2018, I wrote An article in TechCrunch stated that 2018 was “the year when social networks weren’t social anymore.” Reflecting on that article, I’m not sure 2018 was the turning point. But the premise of the article is still correct.

At some point, social networks were no longer just about connecting with your closest friends, keeping up with family members who live far away, and feeling a special connection with the people you love.

TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, and X (formerly Twitter) are all slowly evolving to become similar infinite scrollable feeds of algorithm-optimized short videos from top artists.

And it turns out I’m not the only one who has noticed that social networks are slowly moving away from their original purpose. Amo, a small team based in Paris, is working on a brand new social app called ID for a better time in 2023.

ID is a social app launching today on iOS that lets you connect with your friends in creative ways. In many ways, it feels like the early days of blogging, the highly personalized profile pages of MySpace, and the golden age of Tumblr.

But first, some context about Amo. There is a lot of hype and anticipation surrounding the launch of Amo as the company is founded by Antoine Martin, who was the co-founder of Zenly along with Alexis Bonillo. Zenly was a popular social app focused on location sharing that encouraged 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 work on it as a separate app. Under Snap’s ownership, Zenly became one of the biggest social apps of all time in Europe. At its peak the company had 18 million different users opening the app Every day,

And then… he disappeared.

As part of Snap’s cost-cutting efforts, the company decided to shut down Zenly entirely. As I heard, the move also sparked discussions among French politicians at the highest levels and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.

Several key members of the Zenly team are now working at Amo. In fact, there are 10 co-founders. In addition to Martin, Corentin Kerisit, Michael Goldenstein, Claire Pluvinage, Charlie Delaroche, Julien Martin, Quentin Pérez, Nicolas Falord, Alexis Druon and Jean-Baptiste Delidou are all co-founders of Amo and all former Zenly people.

Another reason why Amo’s launch is highly anticipated is that the startup closed an $18 million funding round in February or March at a valuation of $100 million, with New Wave leading the round, and Coatue and DST Global also participating. Amo also has 80 angel investors on its cap table.

This is a highly unusual funding round as it took place in 2023 (during the VC funding downturn), Amo is a mobile consumer startup (no sources of revenue right now) and the startup had no product.

a blank canvas

In 2010, Jürgen Schweizer of Cultural Code, the 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 a blank canvas.

“If you want to understand what makes the iPad special, you can’t look at what it is, but at what it is Not there. passed. The iPad is so thin and light that it becomes the display and the display becomes the application. No input device. The device disappears and switches to the application you were using. The technology is transparent,” Schweizer wrote.

And this analogy also applies specifically to the work of id and amo. There are many things you can do with ID. There are also many things that we take for granted in a social app that are not there.

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

Image Credit: Romaine Delate

When you first create your profile on ID, you get a blank 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 take content from your photo library, you can write text or draw pictures. When you select a photo, ID automatically creates a cut-out of the main object or subject in the photo, using PhotoRoom’s technology.

This will look instantly familiar to Pinterest users who love to create mood boards or software developers who cover their brand new laptop lid with stickers.

Each virtual object can be moved, resized and rotated. After some time, 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 define what’s going on in your mind at the moment. For example, you might have a corner of Los Angeles filled with your favorite buildings you visited during your vacation, group photos with your friends, a cup of coffee from your favorite coffee shop, etc. You could also create a restaurant corner with photos of fancy food from restaurants you’ve recently visited.

Everything feels smooth and natural. You scroll, zoom in, zoom out, move from one profile to another. It has a sense of depth and space that I’ve never seen in any other app. Photos never look pixelated and you don’t feel like you’re waiting for something to load.

If you’ve been using ID for a while, things can get confusing – but so is life. “And that’s okay. My personality is disorganized – Our personality is disorganized. They are multidimensional and they are not organized neatly into a 3×3 grid,” said Antoine Martin, CEO of Amo.

Evolving Gameplay

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

I’ve been using the app for a little over a week, and I can already see some trends spreading among the small community of beta users. As it moves from one wall to the other you can see who originally made the sticker. Some users have installed good cabinets so that they can neatly classify all the things that are important to them. A user created a guestbook section on his profile. “If you’re coming, please leave a note here,” she wrote.

Some video games rely heavily on the player’s creativity for entertainment, such as Minecraft or the recent Zelda games. In these games, you can build your own fort or create your own vehicle.

And this 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 doesn’t look like any other social app.

Image Credit: Romaine Delate

Maybe Amo will promote a creator economy with exclusive content that can really make your profile stand out. It is possible that the company will add some premium features over time. For now, Amo wants to find a hit.

“We are prioritizing scale because my goal is to build an indestructible company. And this is the founder of Zenly saying so! i thought 18 million [daily active users] That would be enough to make a company indestructible. But I was wrong. i think you need 100 million [daily active users],” Martin told me.

cure for loneliness

When the Amo team started working on ID, they wanted to find a way to address loneliness. Creating a social app seems a bit counterintuitive since 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] Now it’s called the loneliness epidemic. And if they say it’s an epidemic, that’s because it’s really contagious. In other words, if you are isolated, your loved ones are also isolated because you are unreachable. So when you’re on TikTok for two hours, they’ll have no one to talk to,” Martin told me.

“And at the same time, the human needs that the social consumer space can meet are no longer covered by these products unlike they used to be,” he said. “In the early days of Facebook, I don’t know if you remember, profiles were kind of mash-ups. There were drawings, games, photos, texts. You will write long comments, it could be a poem. , , And on the other hand, it was a reminder that you mattered to these people.

According to him, the current generation of social networks is very passive. You do not need to do much to spend two hours on TikTok or YouTube because these companies want you to spend as much time as possible on these apps. “We aspire to go back to these earlier principles and implement them,” Martin said.

This is why Amo doesn’t want you to spend hours in the app. When you have a few minutes, you can open the app by swiping up on the notification card to check what’s new on your friends’ profiles.

When you reach the last card, the ID shows you a message that reads, “Get some fresh air.” And then, the app closes automatically. You’re back on the home screen, you can put your phone back in your pocket.

Image Credit: Romaine Delate

ammo and id

ID is a poll on social apps, but will it work? Given the team’s past experience and Amo’s deep hold, if there is any team that has the guts to try something fundamentally new in this field, it is Amo.

“We’re intentionally shipping something 8 or 9 months after the company’s launch because we swore to ourselves that it wouldn’t take us a year to launch, we’d learn more by building publicly,” Martin said.

While ID is Amo’s first idea, the company likely has other ideas in the consumer social sphere – Amo hasn’t named its app ‘Amo’. So it will be interesting to follow the launch of this new app as well as the story of Amo as a company.

Image Credit: amo

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