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Teens don't want to hang out where their parents are, which is one reason Facebook is losing younger users in the U.S. But teens aren't giving up on social apps altogether. They're just embracing newer products including, most recently, IRL (which stands for "in real life" in internet parlance).
IRL gives users a way to easily send, receive and accept invitations to offline activities, whether that's a group workout, a movie date, or just chilling at home. Unlike Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, this app only connects users to a known, and safe, inner circle of friends already in their phone contacts.
The app is also built to drive teens to do more of the things together that will make them put their phones down. IRL co-founder and CEO, Abraham Shafi, told CNBC that ultimately, the company will make revenue by allowing users to purchase tickets to activities or classes they want to do together. But the company plans to remain free of display ads, permanently.
"Right now social media is a spectator sport. It's not making people feel connected. We wanted to be the antidote," the CEO said.
IRL ranked in Apple's top ten social apps around Valentine's Day, just trailing Pinterest, though it has dipped into the top 40 since then. Shafi said app downloads spike around calendar holidays.
Shafi and his co-founders are no strangers to the tech scene. The CEO previously founded and sold an HR software company, GetTalent. His co-founders at IRL also include Scott Banister, the first board member of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook; along with Krutal Desai and Henry Khachatryan, who previously founded GetSponge.com, a tech venture that ran online Q&A communities.
IRL has raised seed funding from consumer tech investors including Floodgate, Founders Fund and a number of individual angels. (The company hasn't yet disclosed how much it raised in the round or other terms of the deal.)
Shafi said investors backed the company because of its potential to fill the gap that Facebook and the newly re-designed Snapchat have left in the market.
"We feel like by focusing on plans, and getting together offline, we could be the Instagram of invites. Remember? Before Instagram people definitely didn't take as many pictures."