Case study:  0 to 1 on an innovative, socially conscious photo-sharing startup

Creating the 'anti-Instagram' through an emphasis on friendship, storytelling, and privacy.


  • Background: A new social-meets-game experience.
  • Problem: With many photo-sharing platforms there's pressure to make your life look amazing, which causes mental and emotional stress.
  • Solution: PhotoDare's co-creation features and focus on 1:1 relationships helps people share their REAL life moments and tell more authentic stories.
  • Results: An innovative new social photo sharing app designed from scratch.
With many photo-sharing platforms there's pressure to make your life look amazing.

PhotoDare is an iOS / Android app that lets people share their REAL life moments and tell more authentic stories.

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Social media shows us curated, polished and filtered images – everyone looks amazing.

This is because people tend to only publish posts that make them look good, but it’s hard when everyone else’s life seems better than yours.

This imbalance is leading to mental health and self-image issues: For Teen Girls, Instagram Is a Cesspool (NY Times).
  • PhotoDare is aimed at creative humans aged 16-45+ who take a lot of photos.
  • Play-testing revealed people prefer to use PhotoDare's creative & chat modes with a select circle of trusted friends, while they use the Discover feed as a new channel of entertainment.
Roles & Responsibilities
I created the PhotoDare concept, leading UX and production with the help of talented individuals who shared my excitement for this social-app-meets-play-experience.

The team includes myself, 2 developers, and a business affairs specialist, with select one-off help having come in the past from contract developers and a contract games UI specialist.
  • Design-led and bootstrapped with no external investment.
  • As a co-founder I wore any hat necessary from design to PDM to front-end developer, which has made me a stronger and more well-rounded designer.


Making it fun

Here, social post creation is a play experience to help people rediscover forgotten moments and counteract their first instinct to carefully curate which life stories they share, resulting in hilarious ice-breakers and stories that feels more authentic.

I created 20+ achievements tied to sharing, collaboration, risk-taking, and rediscovery using a combination of LottieFiles and animations in After Effects.
Co-creation doubles the fun, but also doubles the complexity
PhotoDare stimulates collaboration and 1:1 dialog for a more personal and meaningful social experience – however, co-creation comes with unique challenges, such as:
  • Permissions: how to manage the vulnerability that comes with trading personal photos with someone else, and also having your name attached to someone else's photos and viewpoints.
  • UX complexity: having two different people contribute to a single post means more steps to get through and information to display.
Front-end development
We built with React Native, using Expo in order to launch on iOS and Android.

While I am not a developer, I used Javascript, HTML/CSS, Github, VSCode, Terminal, XCode and Android Studio to contribute dozens of front-end PRs including locking / unlocking; achievements; photo-viewing; scores of responsive UI improvements; incoming alerts; as well as testing.


Creating PhotoDare has been an adventure at every step as we've gone from 0 to 1:

  • Bootstrapped startup, met awesome people along the way
  • Product design start to finish
  • Recruited team
  • Front-end development
  • Testing, synthesis
  • Launching beta
Sign up now to join the beta! 

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