Wed. Feb 21st, 2024

A team of former Twitter employees is raising money for a rival social media startup they plan to launch next year, which aims to spotlight culture and reward the creativity of often underrecognized groups of creators.

Spill — named after the phrase “spill the tea” — is hoping to remove some of the barriers to entry that discourage users from posting on other social platforms and make it easier for creators to be compensated for their content. 

The startup is currently fundraising for a $1.3 million seed pre-seed funding round that it plans to invest in hiring engineers, a designer, and a community manager. 

The platform intends to have a blockchain-based loyalty system that will automatically pay users if their content gains traction. On the content moderation front, the startup plans to use existing large language models — as well as training new models that tackle abuse aimed at marginalized communities — to reduce its reliance on large human moderation teams. Another point of difference, Spill says, is its plan to host so-called “tea parties,” both on the platform and in real life, for groups to gather.

Spill is led by Twitter’s former global head of social and editorial Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell, whose entire 27-person team was laid off by Elon Musk shortly after his takeover of the company. Terrell had marked his departure with a screenshot of the tweet he was unable to send from the official Twitter account — “bye literally everyone” — because he had been locked out of its systems when his employment was terminated.

Terell told Insider the genesis for Spill was in 2019 when he and DeVaris Brown — now Spill’s CTO — both started working at Twitter on the same day.

“We were the only two Black guys in our new hire class and we were like, hey, we should talk,” Terrell said. “We bonded over a shared love of culture, building new platforms, and also knowing there’s not a lot of us in this space yet.”

While Brown left Twitter in 2020 to build his own data startup, the pair began “talking a lot more” earlier this year, as Musk’s Twitter acquisition progressed. Twitter has been in a state of constant tumult under Musk, a period that has seen mass layoffs, an advertiser exodus, and a reported surge in hate speech.

“It became pretty clear it was like, now’s the time,” Terrell added.

Spill is focusing its early community building efforts onboarding creators from communities that are often “underrecognized” on big social platforms, despite having a huge impact on their growth.

“A lot of the success, whether it’s QueerTok, #BlackTwitter, the creators from early YouTube and Vine, a lot of them are from marginalized groups, but they really define these platforms,” Terrell said.

More than 38,000 users have signed up to reserve their handle on Spill since the company announced its waitlist on Friday, a spokesperson for the company said. Spill is aiming for an alpha launch in January, followed by a beta launch in late March.

Check out the 14-page pitch deck Spill is using to court potential investors below.

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