Ex-Dispo builders launch Roll, a creation app with a paywall

Ex-Dispo builders launch Roll, a creation app with a paywall

Today marks the launch of the Roll app, which aims to create an easy way for creators to earn extra cash while portraying a potentially more authentic version of themselves to their fans. Already, some creators will charge for access to their Instagram story with close friends, a private Snapchat account, or a secret Discord server, where they post content that’s still on-brand and safe for work, but maybe not as polished and professionally like that. they post “on the main page”. Roll takes this creator tactic and streamlines it – instead of subscribing to a creator’s Patreon to access their secret Instagram, this entire transaction can be simplified on Roll, which is available for iOS and Android.

“Our punch line is essentially that we give fans access to their favorite creators’ camera rolls,” said founder and CEO Erik Zamudio. “The way it works is fans subscribe to see content from creators that they’re not going to be able to see anywhere else. I think it allows creators to be the most authentic and real versions of themselves.”

To be clear, Roll doesn’t share access to these creators’ literal camera rolls—that would be a disaster waiting to happen. But the idea is that Roll gives creators a chance to make money while connecting with fans in a more casual way. Even when posting on social media is the job, it’s not like you’re uploading everything to your camera roll – you can take a photo of the perfect (or not-so-perfect) omelet you made, a bad selfie, a screenshot of a meme you like, or something weird you saw on a trip. These images might not make sense on your carefully planned Instagram network, but they can work on a platform like Roll. Plus, like a real camera roll, there’s no one to like or comment on Roll posts.

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Creators keep 80% of their earnings on Roll, where they can charge monthly subscriptions between $5 and $50. Zamudio says most creators have so far opted for the $5 mark, but people creating more specialized content could move toward the higher end of the range — for example, a TikTok chef would charge more for exclusive recipe videos than if they posted a few behind. scene photos per month. Unlike a competitor like OnlyFans, Roll does not allow adult content.

Tana Mongeau with her Roll account open on her phone

Tana Mongeau with her Roll account open on her phone. Image credit: Roll

At launch, around 20 creators are on Roll, but the team will add 10-15 more stars each week until they’re ready to open their creator portal to the public. Roll’s current roster includes musician Dillon Francis, “Stranger Things” actor Noah Schnapp, social media personalities like Tana Mongeau, Sommer Ray and Stassie Karanikolaou, and YouTuber David Dobrik.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Dobrik has been involved with a photo-based social startup. He co-founded David’s Disposable, the app that became Dispo. Zamudio and three others on Roll’s staff also helped build David’s Disposable, but Zamudio quit in mid-2020, shortly before the app changed to Dispo. He declined to say why he and his colleagues left.

The much-hyped Dispo app launched in March 2021, but just a week later Insider reported sexual assault allegations regarding a member of Vlog Squad, Dobrik’s YouTube prank ensemble. The alleged assault happened while filming a video for Dobrik’s channel about group sex. Seth Francois, a former Vlog Squad member who is Black, posted a YouTube video outlining the racism he experienced in David’s videos — he also said he experienced sexual assault on Dobrik’s set. Shortly after the Insider article was published, Dobrik resigned from the board of Dispo.

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Amid these many controversies, early investors in Dispo such as Spark Capital, Seven Seven Six, and Unshackled committed to donating potential profits from their investment in the app to organizations that work with sexual assault survivors. But while Dobrik lost a number of brand deals, his YouTube subscriber count only dropped from 18.8 million to 18.3 million, and he still posts three videos per week, which get about 6 to 10 million views each. And now Dobrik is dealing with consumer technology again. But while Dobrik co-founded Dispo, Zamudio says the controversial YouTuber is just a creator who uses the Roll app (and also appears in their promotional content).

“[David] wasn’t the first big creator to commit to Roll,” Zamudio told TechCrunch. “That’s definitely something I don’t want to misunderstand is that this is not like … ‘David left Dispo and now David is doing his own other thing,’ because that’s definitely not the case. David is not a founding member of the team.”

He later elaborated via email: “At the end of the day, David is a creative and smart person, and we’re excited to have him involved with our other amazing creators. We truly look at our entire list on an equal footing and value all of your input. I’m sure there will be ties to Dispo as David has been involved in both, but as we discussed, David is a creator (not a founder or team member) at Roll.”

Dispo and Roll have a similar DNA in that they both encourage more authentic publishing – on Dispo you can only see the photos you take the morning after, mimicking the nature of a disposable camera. But while Dispo is a social network, Roll is a monetization creator platform.

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“After David’s Disposable blew up the way it did, it pushed us way further into the creative economy world,” Zamudio told TechCrunch. “And as we got closer to a lot of creators and just started hearing about the kinds of things they were going through, we kept hearing that this one issue came up, and really it was that they wanted to be able to get into the paywall.”

So far, Roll has raised a $500,000 angel investor round, led by Dan Beldy of Airwing Ventures.

Update, 1/18/21, 2:30 PM EST: The article’s original headline stated that Roll was created by former Dispo founders. While his Linkedin says he is a founding member at Dispo, Zamudio explained to TechCrunch that he worked directly on the David’s Disposable app and not at Dispo. The headline has been changed to reflect this.

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