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This Founder Created A Photo-Sharing App For His Girlfriend, Went Viral on TikTok, and Raised $12.5 Million in Capital Now, nearly 2 billion photos have been sent on the Locket Widget app, and it won an Apple Cultural Impact Award on Monday.

By Gabrielle Bienasz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Courtesy company
Locket Widget with inspiration Ava and founder Matt Moss.

In 2021, app developer Matt Moss created a photo-sharing app to keep in touch with his long-distance girlfriend — and now it has over 30 million signups.

On Monday, the app, now called Locket Widget, received a Cultural Impact Award from Apple's annual App Store awards.

Related: Apple Names BeReal iPhone App of the Year

Moss told Entrepreneur that the idea started as a low-ambition romantic gift, and he didn't expect it to blow up — but now he hopes to continue to make it easier for people to connect more intimately on social media.

Here's how it went from a private app to a 10-employee operation with $12.5 million in venture capital users worldwide.

What is Locket Widget?

Locket Widget is an app that creates a mini-screen in the corner of your iPhone. You can upload photos to a "locket," which are then automatically shared and refreshed with the locket on the screens of your family and friends.

"It makes your phone feel a lot more personal to use," Moss said.

Upon signing up, the app asks you to pick 10 "best friends," with a maximum of 20 people. You can also create separate lockets for a close friend or significant other.

It launched on Apple's app store on New Year's Day 2022. He also Moss posted a video about Locket on TikTok.

@locketcamera Tag the person you would do this with… #locket #widget #locketwidget ♬ original sound - Locket

The company's early videos racked up views in the millions. He claimed that led to other people posting about it organically, then waves of interest in the app and, he said, some 2 million signups within two weeks.

The company raised $10 million in April in a round led by Sam Altman, now CEO of OpenAI and a former president of Y Combinator. The co-founder of Instagram, Mike Krieger, also participated in the round, which added to prior a friend and family round of $2.5 million. It now has almost 10 employees, nearly 2 billion photos shared, and users worldwide including Saudi Arabia, the U.K., and Thailand.

For buzzy social media apps, raising a pile of money before having a seemingly viable revenue stream, is common (or, it was, before the tech rout of 2022). Clubhouse raised $100 million in January 2021, at the height of a pandemic-driven audio obsession, less than a year after it had launched in April 2020. BeReal has $30 million in the bank.

Related: What Is BeReal? This Buzzy New App Has TikTok Playing Copycat

"We actually kind of took a more conservative fundraising strategy than a lot of companies in the social space," Moss said.

Still, there's currently no publicly visible mechanism for Locket to make money.

Moss said he is focused on growing users on a consistent basis and improving the app. Upon doing that, they could add "features that people might consider paying for, or something like that, at that point," he said.

Who is Matt Moss?

Matt Moss is an entrepreneur who started developing apps in middle school. He attended Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference a few times.

He met his girlfriend, Ava, while he was a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara, but he graduated before her (in June 2021), so he built an app that would allow them to share photos with each other while dating long-distance.

For six months, the couple had their own private photo-sharing app.

"Over time, we ended up sending like hundreds of photos back and forth, and using the app pretty much every single day," he said.

Then, their private app caught the attention of Ava's friends, he said, who began asking if they could use it.

"After enough people started asking, we kind of decided — might as well put it out there and see what happens," he said.

Gabrielle Bienasz is a staff writer at Entrepreneur. She previously worked at Insider and Inc. Magazine. 

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