Friendly Apps raises $3 million, pre-produced, for apps that improve people’s well-being – TechCrunch
A lifelong engineer and product designer, Michael Sayman has been creating apps since he was a child, landing roles at Facebook, Google, Roblox and, most recently, Twitter, where he was often tasked with developing products for a teenage audience. Sayman was just 17 when he joined Facebook, but had already created several apps – an experience documented in his book “App Kid”. Over the years, Sayman has contributed to high-profile products like Instagram Stories, WhatsApp Status, YouTube Shorts, and the Roblox Graph, among others. Now Sayman is looking to leverage his understanding of what users want from their apps with the launch of his new startup, Friendly Apps.
The startup’s thesis is that its generation, Gen Z, understands that many of the social apps that have been created to date can be toxic to users’ health and can prevent people from achieving their true goals. Friendly Apps’ mission is to create a suite of apps with a different set of values that aim to help people with their physical and mental health in new ways.
Prior to launching Friendly Apps, Sayman worked at Twitter. In fact, the founder had just joined Twitter in March, where he intended to help the social network by creating new product experiences for teens through his 0 -> 1 team.
But after the deal was announced to acquire Elon Musk, internal product development efforts slowed, he says. This situation caused him to finally get out of Big Tech to work on his own thing.
“It takes a billionaire trying to acquire a company that I used to work at for me to finally go,” Sayman laughs.
The idea of Friendly Apps is something he’s had in mind for years, having seen how tech companies develop their products.
“Many social media products use retention tactics that slowly deteriorate the well-being and mental health of their users because of the way they are designed,” says Sayman. Companies have encouraged bad behavior from their users and have become popular because they are addictive, he says.
“They have tactics to bring people in.”
He suggests that the problem lies not just in the design of the product, but also in the internal objectives and parameters pursued by the companies.
“The structures and incentives within many of these social media companies are not designed to encourage longer-term thinking around the well-being of the person using the product,” Sayman notes. “If someone is not doing well on the platform… if they feel anxious, depressed or insecure, over time they will stop using the product. They will try to find other avenues or other ways to communicate or connect with the people they care about in other ways,” he says.
Sayman wants user-friendly apps to be different. While the startup is learning from the social apps and products it helped create for teens, its apps won’t just be for Gen Z users.
As for the applications themselves, they have not yet been created. Despite this fact, the startup raised a $3 million seed round in about a week. It looks like a lot of people were willing to bet on Sayman, starting with Weekend Fund’s Ryan Hoover, founder of Product Hunt.
“I have known Michael for eight years. It was clear that he would eventually start his own business. He has a very rare ability to deeply understand human behavior, translate his ideas into clean design, and build quickly,” says Hoover. “We are committed to investing in the pre-product, the pre-deck.”
Sayman has a few different product ideas, though. He envisions an app could be focused on helping people achieve their fitness goals, even if they’re not gym goers or runners, or any other type of hardcore fitness advocate. physical.
Another app could help people remember to prioritize their real-world relationships and encourage them to spend time with people they care about in the physical world.
“Everybody does so many things that we don’t end up catching up in person for a while,” Sayman says.
Over time, friendships can deteriorate as people know each other less and less, which can impact mental health. Today’s social apps don’t help — they just isolate us further, he explains. Instead, we end up experiencing relationships through “a tiny little window of filtered photos,” he notes.
“We didn’t evolve to live this way — like we all do right now,” says Sayman. “So I think a lot of the mental health issues that we’re starting to see, especially in the younger generations, are largely a result of that isolation and that ‘little window’ to the world.”
The founder also plans to bring his worldview as a second-generation Latino immigrant to Friendly Apps’ product experiences, seeing the potential to help overcome specific barriers that new immigrants to the United States might have. overcome.
But these types of concepts may or may not be among the first apps to launch. Instead, the startup plans to test a suite of products, experiences, features, and even various design elements before releasing anything to the public.
Sayman can build apps quickly. But as the sole founder, he will still need time to launch and test products. He hopes something will be released in about six months, he says.
Seed investors in Friendly Apps include BoxGroup, Weekend Fund, Shrug Capital, Day One Ventures, Betaworks Ventures, SRB Ventures, 305 Ventures and CoreVentures, as well as founders and operators of Snap, TikTok, Instagram, Meta, Google, Tesla , Things and others.
The company also wants to include the perspectives of those outside of Silicon Valley, Sayman said.
An angel investor, Hayley Leibsontold TechCrunch that she is “extremely happy that Michael has prioritized onboarding female angel investors like me, and others, including teachers, mothers, students, and immigrants from backgrounds various”.
“The tech industry doesn’t really bring together a lot of investors from places that aren’t the tech industry,” Sayman points out. “If we think about how to make products that help people’s mental health and physical well-being…I think we can get opinions and comments and feedback directly from people who are not in the business. world of technology.”