Mort is the former director of design for dating app Hinge; Battersby was previously Bumble’s director of APAC marketing, making them perfectly suited to kickstarting a social media app. They are defying the opinion of some people around them, who suggest the risk is too high and will ruin their careers.
The team, both from Sydney, started working on Sunroom in 2020 and in early 2021 began building the app with the help of advisers and early adopters, continuously iterating and making improvements. They were determined to break away from the pack and create an app that helped women post what they wanted while being rewarded for nurturing a community and making authentic connections.
Hinged on the creator economy, making content for social media isn’t free or easy. Anti-racism advocate and adviser to Sunroom, Alyssa Ho, said recently in an interview with Refinery29: “I don’t think people understand the amount of time, emotional labour, energy, education, and emotional and mental toll it can take on creators to pour themselves into their work, especially when it comes to the advocacy realm, without any sort of recognition, gratitude or compensation…It’s very much a ‘take’ approach rather than a meaningful one.”
Creators can now be compensated and supported for their efforts. In a recent Instagram post, Sunroom shared, “Women and non-binary creators produce the most sought after content on the internet. Yet, it feels like every time we put ourselves out there to make money, we’re judged for asking to be paid.”
To gain access to all content by a Sunroom creator, viewers sign up to the creator’s monthly subscription through a free or paid model. A paying member can unlock posts, send unlimited direct messages to the creator and comment on creator’s posts to their heart’s content. The free membership grants viewers access to public posts; however, when you want to unlock private content, ‘cheer’ or direct message a creator, it’s a one-off transaction using Beams, Sunroom’s in-app currency.
While the monetisation aspect plays a vital part in the app and its future, so does the name. During an interview with The Latch, Mort said, “We want people to think of how it feels to be in a Sunroom: warm, safe, and fully seen. We want people to think of a progressive, unfiltered, entrepreneurial, and comfy space where women and non-binary creators are doing whatever the hell they want, however they want to do it, and stacking their cash in the process.”
Sunroom sets up creators for success, it also prevents them from experiencing some of social media’s most toxic traits.
The SPF difference
The app offers a high level of protection to its creators. SunBlock is Sunroom’s industry-first anti-screenshot and anti-screen recording technology. Ensuring all content posted on the app stays in the app, providing a safe environment for creators.
“All the content is progressively moderated through a women’s lens and we have industry-first safety features, including ‘SunBlock’, which is our anti-screenshot technology – along with zero-tolerance for bullying, harassment, or hate speech – so creators can express themselves without fear,” Mort explained.
The app launched with 100 creators and four human moderators. As more creators sign up to Sunroom, they’ll go through an application process to be approved. The team never automates a decision that affects the livelihood of a creator.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube rely heavily on automated tools to moderate content online. Machine learning algorithms flag content deemed objectionable to reduce the risk of trauma caused to content moderation workers. However, automating content moderation is a risk in itself, as it has been programmed to identify certain content, which may be silencing freedom of expression online.
Sunroom is a solution for creators who stand for something and are passionate about sharing their experience, advice, and expertise. It’s the next phase of social media engagement, where people are authentic and raw. It’s a designated platform for creators to be compensated and connect deeply one-on-one with people who resonate with their views and content.
“There is definitely a social movement occuring at the moment, particularly with Gen Z — they’re more sex-positive, they’re more self-expressive and I think they’re becoming tired of being silenced or censored online when they speak about issues or causes that are important to them,” Battersby said.
It may seem that the social media landscape is too saturated to compete with those who have been around for over a decade. But we’re in an era where existing platforms no longer appeal to under-represented genders and groups. The focus on health and wellbeing is a priority and apps such as Sunroom are ensuring content creators and their fans maintain that in their lives.