Nat Versus the Volcano: Can an AI Investor Solve an Ancient Mystery from the Ashes of Vesuvius?Read more

Art by Clark Miller
Art by Clark Miller

Screentime: The Social Media Founder Who Controls His Vibrating Bed From His Phone

Poparazzi founder Alex Ma also unlocks his Tesla “Batmobile” from his phone while setting strict boundaries on his social media use.

Sept. 3, 2022 7:00 AM PDT

Alex Ma describes the last week of May 2021 as both “a dream and a nightmare at the same time.” That was the week when his social media app, Poparazzi, made a dramatic breakthrough, soaring to the top of Apple’s App Store chart, which landed the app a $15 million Series A led by Benchmark the following month. A precursor to this summer’s BeReal craze of freewheeling, uncurated social media, Poparazzi had users snap spontaneous photos of their friends instead of posting curated photos of themselves.

That week was a founder’s dream, but also a mess for the app’s three-person team. “You don’t realize that being No. 1 also means that everything around you is burning down,” Ma said. It’s been almost a year since then: The chaos has quieted, Ma’s team has hired seven more full-time employees, and the app has reached over 5 million members. Meanwhile, Ma spent the last year finding unique ways to maintain sanity.

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