Gen Z isn’t happy with the social media they grew up with, so they build the apps they want to use. Tagg, a social branding app for creative teens and twenties, today announces a $2 million seed round from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Facebook’s former VP of International Growth Ed Baker, TripAdvisor founder Stephen Kaufer, Pillar VC and more .
Founded by recent alumni of Brown University and neighboring Rhode Island School of Design, Tagg is still in private beta with thousands of users and thousands more on a waiting list. It’s like a link-in-bio service, but with a social element that encourages young creatives to connect, collaborate and develop friendships.
“In the digital world, the more authentic your brand, the more authentic your connections. Today’s social platforms fall short because they are not built for this evolving intersection of branding and connection,” the company explains. “Tagg builds and cultivates an environment that allows full creative expression of itself – no restrictions, no stigma.”
Depending on what you want to use your profile for (maybe you want a social profile or you want to promote your art and network), you can choose from five profile skins when you board the app. From there, you can customize your page, follow people, and post content like you would in any other app. But on Tagg there is no like count on posts, which is a conscious design choice.
“WWe don’t have likes — just comments, shares, and opinions — because we want our creatives to focus on their favorite selves without stigma,” co-founder Victor Loolo told BestFitnessBands.
Especially among the Gen Z audience Tagg was built for, users don’t always want to count likes because they know it can encourage them to compare themselves to peers in a superficial way. Even US Senators like Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have passed legislation banning like counts for social media users under the age of 16, as it could harm the mental health of teens.
Tagg’s “social branding” marketing may seem counter-intuitive at first glance – the concept of branding may sound like you’re categorizing yourself. But by design, Tagg encourages its users to grow out of their comfort zone. While users build their profiles using preset skins, these are just suggestions – if users want to build their profiles from a blank slate and create their own categories to organize their content with, they can do that.
“Profiles can look like anything, that’s the beauty of it. We wanted to move away from the traditional, restrictive, cookie-cutter profiles that all social apps have, because as Gen Zers we value freedom of expression and uniqueness,” explains Loolo. “We wanted to find a happy, easy-to-use medium between a traditional profile and a blank page, which would be challenging for a lot of people, so we went with profile skins.”
Tagg was inspired by Loolo’s own experience as a football player at Brown, where he found it difficult to define himself outside of his identity as a student athlete. That’s what inspired him to build Tagg, along with co-founders Blessing Ubani and Sophie Chen.
“People are kind of pigeonholed. Let’s say I’m a guy who makes cooking videos on TikTok – I’m the cooking video guy. But maybe I enjoy video games and other things,” Loolo told BestFitnessBands. “We wanted to move away from that and allow these creatives to take more holistic pictures of themselves.”
Tagg users currently earn points by participating in the platform – while these points are currently just a vanity feature, Loolo sees this as a potential future for the app.
“While Tagg is not currently decentralized or tokenized, the principles of our platform reflect the values of web3,” Loolo said.One of our goals is to help our creatives understand that direct rewards for content sharing and community participation are the solution to the problems of the creator economy, as opposed to underpaid creator funds and inconsistent brand deals.”
In the future, Tagg could allow users to earn a coin or token of value. But for now, Tagg is focused on onboarding more users from the waiting list and recruiting more users.
After graduating from college in 2020, the team moved to the Bay Area, where they continued to work on the app. With its recent funding, the app is hiring people to expand its team. Recently, Steven Fang joined Tagg as CTO and Co-Founder, with 15 years of engineering experience.