As a 31-year-old millennial, Kyle Hatcher remembers the golden years of social media.
A teen around the time of Instagram’s early rise, he frequently used the platform to digitally commune with his friends and form new bonds with like-minded users. Now, more than a decade later, he says the advertisement-laden application is unrecognizable. In answer, he launched his own.
“So, the idea for W/Friends app really came about back in 2014, if you can believe it,” Hatcher told ESSENCE, explaining that it took nearly eight years to bring to market because he wasn’t an actual app developer at the time. “I was transitioning out of finance industry and noticed the shift that was happening with some of my favorite apps. I won’t go into names, obviously, but one was for mostly pictures. One was for basically text and short characters, and then the other one was for blogging. And I thought it’d be really cool, at least in my opinion, if there was an app that had all of those things kind of in one, but a little bit better organized with a holistic view of the user and their friends.”
Hatcher says you should think of the app as Instagram, meets Tumblr, meets Blogger.com in which aggregated news articles appear in-feed and users to interact on what they see.
Overall, the experience is meant to replicate the organic feeling social media apps of the early aughts and 2010s inspired—free “of the distraction ads, celebrity gossip and the pressure of likes for gratification.”
Hatcher said he plans to generate revenue by charging media companies to funnel their content on his platform, as opposed to infusing in-app advertisements leading to bogged-down user experiences.
“Bigger social media companies have vested interest in keeping us addicted to our phones to dole up targeted advertisements instead of providing a platform for us to connect with friends,” Hatcher said. “I felt the market kind of needed some course correction with a platform that allows you to check in with actual friends, and share what you have going on without sacrificing your privacy…without an app tracking you everywhere you go on the internet.”
The app was recently launched after Hatcher was selected to participate in Apple’s Entrepreneur Camp for Black app founders, a technology incubator for underrepresented developers to work one-on-one with Apple engineers to accelerate the growth of their apps.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity and a huge brand like Apple recognizes my vision,” Hatcher shared with ESSENCE. “I want to bring humanity back to social media and this is the first step.”