As social media steadily evolves, people’s approach to utilizing it does, too. Whether it’s to catch up on what’s trending or to briefly escape from reality, the answers vary.

Despite the evolution, Kyle Hatcher noticed something that was missing — the essence of cultivating organic connections.

Hatcher’s idea to fill the void in the online space came to him in 2014 but would brew for a while. Although he pivoted from his retail and finance background into information technology (IT), he initially didn’t believe he could do application development himself. However, Hatcher reached a point where opportunity and necessity crossed paths sparking a pivotal moment in his trajectory — creating his own app, w/Friends.

Courtesy of w/Friends

“The necessity was wanting to build w/Friends, but without having the money to actually pay a developer to do it,” he explained to AfroTech. “I had reached out to a few folks that I thought would be able to potentially do it or services that build applications and they were all way out of my budget. I had the opportunity to turn my job as a network engineer into an application developer for the federal government. So, I thought that was a perfect opportunity for me to learn application development for my regular nine-to-five job, but then also to have a chance to finally build w/Friends myself.”

Seeing how engagement metrics were taking away from building community through social media, Hatcher’s app, which is greatly inspired by Tumblr, frees its users from any pressure of likes, followers, views, etc. The w/Friends creator wanted to create a space for everyone to freely post without having folks equate their self-worth to numbers.

Couresy of w/Friends
Additionally, the app allows users to not have to worry about being bombarded with ads.

In order to take his brainchild to the next level of officially launching, Hatcher participated in the Apple Entrepreneur Camp for Black app founders.

“They provided us with so many different resources,” he shared. “Not only ways to potentially get funding, but they also allowed us to have technical support as well. As a solo founder, I don’t really have anyone to bounce ideas off of. If there is a bug or there’s something I need to work on, I kind of just have to figure it out on my own. So, having that time to actually sit with the actual technical developers at Apple was so beneficial and helped me clear a bunch of roadblocks I had that I didn’t really have a means to get across or obstacles that I had to overcome.”

With the launch of w/Friends, Hatcher shared with us that Apple has supported and encouraged him in his journey of “connecting the dots.”

Mindful of how social media can take a great toll on one’s mental health, standout features on w/Friends are the Mindfulness tab, which helps users to reflect, relax and breathe throughout the day, and check-ins, to look out for friends in a non-intrusive way.

“I’m hoping that [the mindfulness tab] is really easy because we know how much time is easy for you to spend on social media. The habit or the cue can be, ‘Oh, I’m bored’ or ‘I need a quick distraction.’ If you’re going to spend time in a platform, I want it to bring value to you, not just necessarily distract you and be there to entertain.”