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David Dobrik’s photo app Dispo raises $20m in funding

Dispo lets users take pictures through disposable camera filters and locks them for viewing until 9am the next day, imitating the vintage experiences of 90s photographers.

You may know David Dobrik for his YouTube vlogs and Madison Beer antics, but he’s also a savvy venture capitalist and tech innovator.

His invite-only, ‘in the moment’ vintage photography app Dispo launched in beta last year, generating significant buzz with his sizeable YouTube audience. It has now raised over $20 million USD in funding and is already estimated to be worth $200 million USD. Not bad for a 24-year-old, eh?

The app recreates the vibe and feeling of 90s photography, giving users a variety of filter options and locking photos away until the following day. It cashes in both on millennial nostalgia and Gen Z curiosity for a time before immediate images and selfies, leaning heavily on the idea of being present and away from your screen.

Think of any retro aesthetic TikTok and turn that vibe into an app and you’ll land on something akin to Dispo. It looks likely to become an extremely popular platform in 2021 and we’ll no doubt be seeing it far more frequently by the end of the year, especially if lockdowns finally lift and we’re all allowed to venture into the streets again.

What’s Dispo managed to do so far?

Dispo has managed to raise $20m USD from a variety of investors so far, including Sequoia, a company that’s already thrown money at big names like Airbnb, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Zoom.

The app went into beta just over a year ago and was quick to gain a following. A new, invite-only version launched earlier this month to similar fanfare, gaining tens of thousands of downloads in Japan upon release.

According to its website, Dispo is currently only available for iOS but aims to have an Android version out by the end of 2021. Whether it permanently stays invite-only is currently unclear, though it may follow a similar route to Clubhouse and remaining a solely exclusive experience for members only.

Why is Dispo generating so much buzz?

A large portion of Dispo’s audience will be from David Dobrik’s YouTube fan base, at least for now, though the rush of investor interest suggests the app has staying potential beyond just a celebrity following.

Other big platforms such as Instagram and TikTok have seen an explosion in nostalgic throwback aesthetics in the past year or so. 90s school photo trends have been making the rounds and VHS filters are downloaded by millions of iPhone users on a monthly basis.

There is an appetite for content that breaks away from the mainstream influencer culture we’ve become accustomed to in the past five years or so and Dispo scratches that itch in an immediate and gratifying way. There’s competition in a crowded market, but its big star founder and simple ‘developing photos’ gimmick helps distinguish Dispo from other apps.

Nostalgia and future retroism is only gaining momentum as the pandemic drags on – so don’t be surprised when Dispo dominates the market twelve months from now.