A new social video app called Nocam has a radical idea to make social networking more authentic: it turns off the camera so you can’t see what you look like while filming. The idea is to make capturing a moment feel natural while reducing the friction associated with seeing a preview of your own image, which often leaves users hesitant to post or scramble to add edits and filters to update their appearance.
Nocam believes that this concept better reflects the way people interact in real life, where we are not confronted with a mirror that shows us what we look like, that is.
“You know what you’re pointing at — why do you need this preview?” asks Nocam’s co-founder and CEO Justin Spraggins. “As soon as you look at what you’re about to capture, it makes you anxious,” he says. “You’re framing it right now — it doesn’t feel like it really is.” You now perform in any way to create content.
The idea for Nocam grew out of the startup (Snack Break)’s previous endeavors with mobile social networking.
Originally, the team launched a short video app called Popcorn, which aimed to make work communication more fun by letting users record short messages or “pops” that could be shared instead of longer emails, texts or Slacks . But in the face of fierce competition from bigger rivals like Loom, the team realized they weren’t well equipped to target the enterprise market.
Spraggins’ background is in the consumer world, having previously worked on apps Looksee and Unmute and most recently co-founded 9 Count, creators of Wink and others.
“We failed quickly and were like, this just doesn’t feel like us,” Spraggins explains of Popcorn’s pivot away.
Because the team stayed lean, they were able to use their existing fundraiser to experiment with other app concepts. For example, last fall they tested Peek, a photo widget app similar to Locket, which also removed the camera. But after initial testing and a small-scale rollout that only reached about 10,000 active users, the team shifted focus to video.
To use Nocam, users first authenticate with their phone number and allow the app to access their address book to find friends, similar to other social apps. You will then receive your first prompt to record a video. The whole concept in Nocam revolves around the question to record, but initially the prompts are system driven. As you add more friends, you can also receive prompts from them.
For example, Nocam can ask you to do a certain dance as a challenge, spin in a circle, or just post what you’re up to at the moment. The prompts include a random audio clip, and when you start recording, the camera fades out. Clips are up to 8 seconds long to keep filming fast. Users can also add a caption and then hit post to share it with their network – it’s not a direct message back to the friend who shared it with you.
After you publish the video, you can see which friend asked you to record or if it was a system-generated prompt. Friends can comment on posted videos and users can export their recordings to post to other social networks if they wish.
Like BeReal, Nocam sends challenges at least once a day, but you can also get challenges from friends at any time. But while the app lets you flip the camera, it doesn’t record from both cameras at once, as BeReal does.
Still, the app has a very BeReal-esque look and feel, and even offers a calendar of your Nocam memories to look back on.
“We think it’s very much like BeReal meets TikTok,” says Spraggins, noting how it combines both the system trigger in BeReal with TikTok challenges, but in a more friend-focused app. While that may feel a little distracting, it’s worth noting that BeReal is losing steam – recent data from Sensor Tower indicates that BeReal’s monthly downloads are on the decline. In addition, daily usage has dropped 61% since the peak to 6 million users in March versus 15 million in October, data from Apptopia shows.
That may indicate that simply posting random photos of everyday life is nearing its due date. Nocam’s differentiator to focus on video challenges could attract a similar demographic to BeReal, when they actually get something Doing.
The app has marketed itself heavily on TikTok and Instagram, where it aims to appeal to a younger audience. While originally pitched to Gen Z students, the wacky nature of the challenges seems to have attracted a slightly younger audience of high school students, where users may have a desire to connect with friends, but often aren’t actually with them in real life world , as they are in college.
Due to the rating of 13+, the app gives users the option to report others if they make inappropriate challenges or post content that violates the terms. If a user is reported for their challenge, they are prohibited from creating their own challenges in the app. In addition, their violating content would be removed and the user who reported them will never see that person’s content again (and vice versa, in a duplicate block).
The startup is a team of three co-founders – also including CTO Ben Hochberg, formerly lead developer at 9 Count, and Gen Zer Sarah Tran, currently attending The Wharton School in UPenn. The company previously raised $400,000 in pre-seed funding from General Catalyst and Dream Machine to test its various app concepts. After today’s official launch of Nocam, it plans to raise a seed round.
Nocam is iOS-only for now and can be downloaded for free. The company currently has no revenue model, so there are no subscription costs or in-app purchases for the time being.