As you may have heard, the mobile app Shots has been on fire. It has over 5 million active users (and growing fast), just launched 3-second video, and recently raised $8.5 million in its Series A financing.
My venture fund, DominateFund, invested in Shots during the seed round. We’ve kept our involvement pretty quiet, but a lot of misconceptions about the app (and one high profile investor in particular) have convinced me to discuss Shots and why my partners and I believe that it is destined to become a major social network.
For those of you who don’t know anything about Shots, it originally started out as an app for sharing selfies. Its initial growth was fueled in part by Justin Bieber’s involvement. Bieber continues to be an avid user, posting on Shots multiple times a day. Unlike many other apps he’s backed, he genuinely loves Shots enough to use it every single day. Today, Shots is far less about selfies and more like a “digital scrapbook” of daily life. It’s more personal than Instagram to me.
Shots is also no longer about Bieber — millions of people are using the app daily, most of whom have nothing to do with Justin. This leads me to the first reason why we backed Shots. It has real, growing traction among the most important demographic of any social network: teenagers.
Teenagers are the demographic that determine the success or failure of any social network. Snapchat and Instagram’s success can be traced to its heavy teenager user base and the dedication they’ve shown to these apps. Teenagers are not fickle when it comes to their social networks. It’s the same reason DominateFund shies away from backing apps like Highlight and Secret — their traction began with tech early adopters, who we see as incredibly fickle users and poor indicators of the future success or failure of a social network. Tech early adopters love to hype and drop products. If you’re going to pitch a social network to DominateFund, show us traction among teenagers. Shots started building its community the right way.
Speaking of which, the second reason we backed Shots: its hardcore emphasis on building a positive community free of bullying. For those of you who haven’t used Shots yet (seriously, go download the app now), one big thing you’ll immediately notice is that there is no commenting. This is because comments are a prime place where a few rotten teenagers can attack and bully other teenagers. Bullying is a big problem with most teenager-centric communities — half of teens admit to cyber-bullying and other negative behaviors. Ask.fm is a painful example of what happens when a social network lets this kind of behavior get out of hand. This is also why I am not a fan of anonymous apps like Secret — they lead to destructive communities I don’t want to touch with a 1,000 foot pole.
Shots knew about the cyber-bullying problem going in, and build its app to foster a positive community from day one. On Shots, positivity is rewarded and bad behavior is weeded out. Rotten apples can’t use the comments to bash on others. Every time I open Shots, it just feels like a place I want to visit. It feels good. My team and I want to support any social network that has made building this type of community their mission.
The final and most important reason we invested in Shots is the simplest one: John and Sam Shahidi. Matt, Mazy and I have known these two brother founders for years and have seen first hand their product and design savvy, their tireless dedication to their users and team, and their ability to focus and execute on a goal. In other words, they are the best type of entrepreneurs. They are a team that will build a billion-dollar product and change the world for the better.
We are proud investors and users of Shots. I hope you will go download the app and follow my adventures.