In a season of unfamiliarity, founders Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell and DeVaris Brown trusted their intuition to launch Spill, a social platform built around creating safety for diverse communities.
As AfroTech previously told you, Terrell — Twitter’s former global head of social and editorial — and Brown — a former product manager lead at the company — planted the seeds for the application following their exit from Twitter.
“I think we get into these rooms, and I’ve had this experience too where we feel like, ‘All right, the people in senior positions are just there because they’re so much smarter than me, or their credential, their skill,'” Terrell told AfroTech in an interview. “And I think a lot of that was demystified for me when, especially towards the end, I just realized, ‘Oh a lot of this is just the audacity.’ Just having the guts to say, ‘I’m doing this.'”
A Diverse Team Is Working On Spill's AI
With Spill, it is a leap for not only the founders but also for the social media landscape, which will be disrupted by a new industry standard. By preserving Black joy and fostering its flourishing, the platform aims to fix some sins of the past.
The founders hired a diverse team of developers who are working to train the platform’s artificial intelligence (AI). This will be critical for social media monitoring, as they are looking to be able to detect signs of harms or abuse that have adversely impacted communities of color, Terrell says.
“From a fact-based standpoint, let’s talk about Black women. They over-index on social and media consumption by like 40% over any other identity group in this country,” he expressed. “Everybody who’s in Black Twitter or any of these other communities knows that it’s powered by Black women. Setting all the trends and all of that is part of that, but also getting way more hate than any other group. It’s actually insane, when you actually look at it statistically. And then just any marginalized group. If you’re queer, you’re in certain, historically targeted groups overseas, it’s awful to be online and be on social.”
Terrell added, “Our thesis was if we could build a platform from the ground up that caters to these groups, these culture drivers, and then solve the core problems that they’re facing, that our community is facing more specifically, that would make for a better experience for everyone. That does require all to get into the rooms to take the reins of these new systems, whether blockchain or AI. We know by now it’s a misnomer that these technologies are objective. They get coded in with either human behaviors from the people designing them or the data they get trained. It’s really important to have different perspectives building these platforms now.”
Compensation For Viral Moments
There is still a double-edged sword when considering social media’s impact on marginalized communities. Monetization is often tossed into the equation, as everyone is exposed to trends and viral moments but remain unclear of the originator. Compensation oftentimes is an uncertain battle that even when won, Black creators can still receive far less than their counterparts.
Spill will be looking to model a better pathway through the use of blockchain technology. The goal is for users to profit from their viral moment.
“Compensation starts with getting credit,” Terrell said. “Who originated this and that’s always been a really big challenge online. So, that’s why we looked at technologies like blockchain. We can create an immutable record, regardless if you’re on the platform or not, of who created what.”
He added, “On the compensation part, it’s definitely not an easy thing to solve from jump, but what we’re sort of trying to do is take a learned approach because one of the things that we didn’t expect was people using so many visuals on the platform, like the meme formats and everything. So it’s a different type of model that we’re actually exploring and sort of building in… Our vision is to make it such that there’s a way to earn from an ongoing basis.”
Impact Of $2.75 Million Seed Round
Per TechCrunch, Spill’s efforts were energized with $2.75 million in pre-seed funding led by MaC Venture Capital and Kapor Center, with an additional funds from Sunset Ventures. While it is still in its earlier stages of development, the investment was useful to ensure the founders could build with intentionality to create a seamless product, which includes a live newsfeed for users to continuously share updates or their interests otherwise known as “Spills.”
Spill Looking To Reach Unicorn Status
Looking ahead, Terrell hopes to onboard additional culture drivers to the platform, those from different walks of life, and he is looking to position the platform to become the first unicorn Black-owned social platform.
Join Spill's Community Today
As of now, the platform is only available by invitation on Apple’s App Store.
For those interested in joining Spill’s community, the founders have granted AfroTech readers this special code for the first 50 signees: 6J9P71KL.
To get started, click here.