Cocoon's team is joining Substack

August 24, 2021

We're incredibly excited to share that the team behind Cocoon has been acquired by Substack.

The app itself won't come along with the acquisition and will remain up and running as an independent company. So while this announcement won't have an impact on customers of Cocoon, we'd still like to take a moment to extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who has supported the endeavor so far and share exactly why we're so excited about this next chapter.

We started Cocoon because we believed that there was a missing space on the internet — a private space, for just our most important relationships. It wasn't that hard to imagine how an ideal space should work. The reason it didn't exist already was simply because the advertising business model wouldn't let it.

Advertising businesses need to accumulate vast amounts of consumer attention and personal data and transmute that all into a useful service for advertisers. But an app designed for a handful of connections would never ask for much of your time. Inviting advertisers into such an intimate space would be like a stranger barging into your living room. So a clearly valuable experience was locked away, hidden in plain sight.

The starting premise of Cocoon was simple. Build a space worthy of our closest relationships, and pair it with the only business model that makes sense: charging directly for the product.

We've been blown away by how deeply and immediately this premise resonated with people all over the world.

The first version of the app was designed specifically for long-distance families and only worked on iOS. Tens of thousands of families downloaded it within a week of our launch. A month later, we were featured on the Today Show and the influx of new sign-ups immediately took down our servers. Hundreds of email complaints and 1-star reviews flooded our inbox and we thought we were toast. Luckily, one of our Engineers managed to heroically get us back online while working from his iPhone in the middle of the night in Cambodia.

After the dust settled from our initial launch and the pandemic hit with full force, it became clear that some of the most retentive users of the app were not just long-distance families.

Close friends, couples, and even support groups were using Cocoon as a hideaway from social media and messaging. We talked to hundreds of Cocoon users in those first few months and have been honing the product based on their feedback ever since. Over the past two years, we've evolved from a niche app for long-distance families into a private social network for your closest relationships.

Recently, we took the long-planned step of turning Cocoon into a paid product.

We were worried it might present a hurdle for new users, but ended up pleasantly surprised by how many people considered the paid subscription more of a feature than a tax. To us, this reinforced how casting away the constraints of advertising enables amazing (and obvious!) products to flourish.

Rebuilding relationships on the internet, without compromise.

We have been following Substack closely since day one as a best-in-class example of how a paid subscription model can unlock another obviously valuable experience. Without the constraints of writing for clicks or advertising dollars, Substack has unleashed a true renaissance of culture. Just as Cocoon is designed 100% to support direct relationships between people without any compromise, Substack is doing the same. No need for click-bait, thirsty notifications, or algorithms that optimize for time spent.

The more we got to know the team at Substack, the more excited we became about the idea of accepting their offer to acquire our team. The winner-take-all nature of advertising has generally led to everyone being boxed into the same handful of digital rectangles, endlessly scrolling away — whether we're catching up with friends or catching up on our reading. We know we can do better, and we believe Substack will provide us with the best platform to push our vision forward.

While our individual focuses will now shift from enabling closeness to empowering readers and writers, our high level ambition remains constant: build the next frontier of social software that facilitates direct relationships between people, powered by paid subscriptions instead of ads.

What does this mean for Cocoon, the app?

Cocoon will stay up and running, and the focus of the product won't change. The app will remain independent. As the app moves away from a venture-backed model, the costs to maintain and develop the product will drop significantly. We're optimistic that our paid subscription (Cocoon Memberships) can provide the necessary wind in its sails to thrive.

To the investors, teammates, customers, and friends who shared our vision and have enabled Cocoon to exist: thank you. We are grateful for your continued support as both the team and the app enter a new chapter.