Nostalgic photo-sharing app Lapse captures 100M memories monthly and raises $30M

Lapse is a photo-sharing app offering an authentic, unedited experience reminiscent of film photography without today's likes and followers.
Nostalgic photo-sharing app Lapse captures 100M memories monthly and raises $30M

Do you remember the days of travelling with a camera rather than using your mobile phone to commemorate your trip? For one founder, a decision to use a film camera rather than go digital resulted in a multi-million dollar business and a hoard of users. 

Photo-sharing app Lapse today closed a $30 million Series A round, bringing the company's funding to $42.3 million. I spoke to co-founder Dan Silvertown to learn more.

The idea for the company came from co-founder Ben Silvertown's travels in Vietnam with a film camera.

Silvertown recalls: 

"He had this incredible experience. Because when you take photos on a film camera, it's obviously very different to an iPhone, in that you have a limited number of exposures, the aesthetic is a lot more nostalgic and dreamy.

You can't see what the photos look like when you take them; so you get this delayed gratification once you get them processed. 

And for a couple of years after that, I remember he became obsessed with how to take that experience, make it more sociable, and give it to people for free on their phones.

And he eventually came up with the idea that became the first version of Lapse in 2021."

Lapse doesn't let you upload or edit in ways other platforms encourage. Instead, "everyone on Lapse plays by the same rules, which creates a space where it's OK to share all moments, not just the glamorous."  

As more and more young people make an active decision not to partake in the traditional game of "likes and followers" that rules social media, Lapse's interface allows users to capture and share authentic, unedited photos with friends and stay in the moment rather than obsess over how their content will be received. 

What's unique about Lapse is that its success is organic –- the company has not done any social media promotion since 2021, relying instead on word of mouth and invitations.

Sivertown admits scale is difficult in a networked app, especially because the value is only generated when others in one's friend groups choose to use it over another platform. 

"It's not something you can enjoy solo, so it's been a long and difficult journey. It's one that we've tried several different things over the last three years to get people on board. And there's been a tonne of learnings, which we've had about the best way to bring people on with friends, and it really came down to a lot of trial and error and a lot of experimentation."

But 100 million memories are captured every month on Lapse, as it gains traction with young people. Currently available in North America, the UK, and Canada, it has gained a dedicated following amongst Generation Z, with a majority of users identifying as female. 

It became the most downloaded app in the Apple US and UK app stores.

I was curious about the company's business model, considering it's offering a digital app ostensibly for people looking for a connected but more muted digital experience. Silvertown admits that it is totally venture-funded and, while considering a variety of hypotheses for monetisation, is yet to settle on a strategy.  

The company was keen to attract investors with a lived experience building a social app. The funding is co-led by Greylock (an early investor in Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, (now TikTok), Roblox, and Discord) and DST Global Partners, alongside existing investors GV (Google Ventures).

It also includes investment by angel investors Nima Khajehnouri (former VP of Engineering at Snap Inc.) and Praveen Murugesan (former Director of Engineering at Uber), as well as returning investors Octopus Ventures and Speedinvest-

Silvertown shared: 

"They understand that this is not a journey you can do in months or even the low end of years. It's something that takes real dedication, passion, and craft. Therefore, the fundraising environment matters less than the team, the product, and the approach. 

If you talk to our investors, they regularly say that the team and how we approach building the product Is something they have seen before, and the successes that have ended up becoming the really big social players today."

As Lapse has grown, the team plans to prioritise product updates guided by user feedback and expand the company's engineering and technical teams. 

Silvertown notes:

"Our size really gives us speed in how we release updates to the app, which is important when you're building in a space like this.

And so we'll probably take the team to low 20s, maybe mid-20s. But not too much bigger than that; we're not focused on hiring for the sake of hiring; we want to continue to hire great people, so the money will be primarily used for that and product updates." 

Lead image: Lapse. Photp: uncredited. 

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