Lapse, the app that turns your phone into an old-fashioned camera, takes $30 million


In 2024 it could be a huge expense to find an analog camera, buy film (and perhaps special batteries) for it, and take photos that will then need to be developed. For those who yearn for those old days, a startup called Lapse is giving smartphone users an alternative — you take photos that you then have to wait to see “developed” if you like, then share them with friends. Before sharing with a select group.

Lapse has been making some inroads in the market – claiming millions of users, 100 million photos taken each month and a coveted top-10 ranking in the US App Store for photographic apps – and now it's announcing a new round of funding of $30 million. Is taking its ambitions to the next level.

Greylock – the renowned consumer app investor who was an early backer of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok (when it was and LinkedIn – co-led the round with equally renowned DST Global Partners. Previous backers GV, Octopus Ventures and SpeedInvest also participated. This brings the total to just over $42 million and a valuation of around $150 million, according to sources, following a previous $12.4 million raised in seed and pre-seed funding.

Lapse's plans include more behind-the-scenes treatment of “unedited” photos, adding more features around the photo experience, and eventually a revamp of video.

Going forward, there may also be some monetization, CEO and co-founder Dan Silvertown said in an interview — although it's not something that has been touched on yet, and it's trying to move away from the typical route that Social apps drive adoption by leaning into advertising. “The sentiment and the initial hypothesis is not to do it,” he said.

The company's ethos may feel old-school, but some of the processes behind how the app operates stand out.

There are some interesting technical details that stem from life experience. As we previously reported, Silvertown co-founded the app with his brother Ben after Ben found himself traveling in Asia, craving the freedom of a point-and-shoot camera , which did not bind him to continuous viewing. app to see who “liked” his photos, or what other people were doing, and most of all, he's spending his life capturing and sharing those moments on the app, not the other way around. . This inspired him and Dan to look at how to recreate the analog experience through a smartphone.

Although there's no scope for editing pictures or constantly re-taking snaps in the app, there's some interesting treatment happening behind the scenes if you're initially unhappy with their look.

“The photo goes through about 12 different steps in terms of processing,” he said. Some of them have elements of computer vision, and some are built in-house and some use third-party technology. That said, all of these are essentially designed to understand what's in the picture you're taking and optimize how the subject and overall composition look as a result.

On the other hand, some of the mechanics in the app are not that appreciated. The omission has come under some scrutiny – see our story here – for how it has used growth-hacking and forced invitations to expand the number of installs of its app. That technology certainly helped increase the number of users – it at one point reached the top of the US and UK iOS App Stores (the only markets and only platforms where it's available), though it's arguable that it wouldn't be the same for any company. How sustainable can it be for long if the app itself doesn't offer anything useful and interesting.

For Lapps, the lesson was certainly learned, though in its defense, Silvertown still maintains that startups have to start somewhere: Since the premise is that a small group of friends with no search feed There's a way to share your photos with groups, so if you download the app and you don't have any contacts that use it, where do you go from there?

These days, he claims, the app—which has adopted more “journaling” features, essentially gives users a way to create albums that you can keep private or share with a small group of people. – No longer requires a forced invite to use. At least because there is a serious group of people now and it is discovering its own masculinity. However, my own experience was that for completely new users – perhaps especially consumers who are sensitive about sharing data on social apps they don't already know – it can be difficult to figure out how to get through an app's dark patterns. Still hard to figure out how to use it without sharing. At least some names and numbers.

Moving forward, we are at a remarkable crossroads in the world of consumer apps. The most influential names in the business are large in their scale with billions of users, and for the most part – Snapchat is probably the biggest exception – they have gone far beyond just focusing on sharing with small groups of friends, and they None of this is without a lot of bells and whistles that take users away from what looks real now.

Does this leave opportunities for at least some players that are willing to give users that option? BeReal, Dispo and a few others who have worked on that idea seem to have lost some of their momentum for now, but Lapps still believes there is still a long way to go for the concept to be embraced.

And it seems its investors do too:

“What's very interesting is that most of the high-end platforms, whether it's Instagram or Facebook, many of them originally started life as places where we kept up to date with our friends, and then slowly— Gradually they became other things that we know as “them for today,” like sites for news, or entertainment, or keeping up with influencers, Greylock general partner Jacob Andreu said in an interview.

“I think what's interesting about it is that it leaves a hole where there's no place where you can go and look at your friends' profiles, see what they're up to. It's also a wonderful place to start because that's where all these big platforms started. He believes that “the process of taking a photo at a time and later watching the photo develop can reduce the barrier to sharing, using it to create this wonderful space where you can share photos with your friends.” You can stay updated with.”