Women-Founded Social Networking Startup Before Meta Launched Text-Based Social Networking counterterrorism directorate Launching its app this week, the goal is to connect brands, creators and their fans and followers in a more positive environment that focuses on relationships and community rather than algorithm-driven content. To achieve this, RTRO has divided its social experience into two parts – on the one hand, you can keep in touch with friends or family members in RTRO’s “circles”. On the other hand, users can switch to their own space to view content from creators and brands.
also, counterterrorism directorate Claims to offer robust content moderation features focused on keeping apps free from bullying and toxicity and the ability to interact with ChatGPT.
Founded by two tech and marketing veterans, the startup’s approach to social aims to take users back to a simpler time, when social networks were more focused on sharing authentic content and connecting with others. This nostalgia for earlier days is reflected in the app’s name, “RTRO,” which is a misspelling of “retro.”
After surveying Gen Z and millennial users, the team found that the biggest complaint people have about social media apps today is about the amount of brand ads appearing in user feeds and the algorithm-driven experience. But people also say they want to use social media to connect with the people they care about and to check out interesting content.
Brands, too, share their complaints about modern social media, the RTRO founder explained.
With a background in experiential marketing, co-founders Nicole Falco and Tristan Brennan have worked with hundreds of Fortune 500 and 1000 brands over the years, including at Brennan’s marketing agency, TH Experiential. This work includes creating multiple digital products, apps and websites for brands to engage with customers globally. But these brands often voice their confusion and frustration about incorporating social into their campaigns.
“TikTok is still a bit of a mystery to them, and then on (Instagram), the ever-changing rules and ever-changing features and algorithms challenge brands to figure out how to get in front of the people they need,” Falco explain.
These complaints from users and brands got the founders thinking about how to create something better.
“We look at social media from a human experience perspective, how can we make it a little bit better, and at the same time from a technology perspective, what technologies can be leveraged?”
The end result is RTRO, a social app where you can switch between your personal relationships and brand and creator content as they all have their own space. On a personal level, no brand interrupts the experience—however, they do have ways to stay engaged. RTRO prompts users to post a few times a week—an affirmation, GIF, or update about what you’re doing in real life is encouraged (with the hashtag #LogOntoLife). Brands can sponsor these tips if they want.
Meanwhile, the flip side of the app — aka RTRO TV — is an algorithm-free space where brands and creators can engage with viewers in a chat-like environment. At launch, RTRO had about 50 TikTok and Instagram creators producing content for the app. Users can react to their posts, such as giving them a thumbs up, but cannot leave comments or comments. To interact with RTRO TV, users browse various “channels” dedicated to topics such as travel, food, beauty, and more. The company says this gives users more control over the type of content they see in their feeds.
“You can go to that channel, you can explore content from brands and creators — so you have complete control over what you want to watch. It’s completely new. This type of experience doesn’t currently exist in apps,” Falco touts .
However, the product is in some ways similar to TikTok’s test of a dedicated, themed feed.
Additionally, creators have the option to create private circles and post within their own channel space. When done, they can close the circle. Creators can also block users from messaging in circles, or delete them if they are hateful or malicious.
Creator RTRO tested the ability to express their liking for more private and casual conversations with followers.
“In these channels, people with hundreds of thousands of followers are finding that they can do one post a day on Instagram—it has a very tailored profile,” Brennan said. But in the channel, they can now post multiple times a day, he explained. “They can have informal conversations. The moment you stand out doesn’t have to feel too formal (or like). It creates something more personal,” he continues. “We’re seeing the same thing with brands. They’re not just posting something to sell their product. They’re talking about their internal team or culture, what they’re doing today… Having something that feels less formal is Unique.”
Brands that have tested RTRO include Alastin Skincare, KISS Nails, Loops Beauty, Halo 42, JOAH, and more.
Another feature allows users to interact with ChatGPT through an integration, letting them ask the AI for ideas and inspiration — which could be another test case for how consumers respond to AI in a social networking environment. It’s been a flop for Snapchat so far — its users recently criticized the My AI feature introduced by the app, calling it “creepy” and demanding its removal.
Other apps are better at blending AI and social. Ghost, whose mobile messaging app lets friends post anonymously in group chats, just launched an iMessage extension and added the ability to let users create mini-apps using ChatGPT. The app subsequently ranked No. 5 in the social category of Apple’s iMessage app store.
To get RTRO’s app off the ground, the team worked with an outsourced company, but its in-house CTO had previously created numerous consumer digital experiences and mobile applications for major companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, iHeartMedia, CLEAR, WeWork, and Grailed. The startup aims to bring the outsourced team in-house at some point in the future, and says those talks are already underway.
The company has yet to reveal its revenue model plans, but plans to reveal this part of its strategy in the next quarter or so.
RTRO is a remotely distributed team of fewer than 12 people currently backed only by angel investment, including from the two co-founders. No pre-seed or seed funding has been raised.
RTRO is free to download in app store.