Three years ago Matt Phillips experienced an incident where he faced his own mortality.
Being a single father to his 9-year-old son Cooper and 5-year-old daughter Piper, he felt there needed to be a way for him to remain present in their lives, even if he passed away. For Phillips and many others, losing someone means losing their stories, wisdom, and pure essence.
That sentiment inspired his Raleigh-based startup, Project Transcend.
Billing itself as an “experience creation company,” Transcend aims to revolutionize social media by creating a mobile app that allows your life story and essence to live on. Through gathering photos, videos, audio, and ‘written moments,’ users can capture key moments and ultimately their legacy.
“It’s really focused around capturing your life story that entails the most impactful moments, meaningful memories, the things that really kind of define us and package them up in a way that you can pass them along over generations,” said Phillips, who is Project Transcend’s Founder and CEO.
He said it’s not just about the photos or videos we post. It’s sharing the story behind it that “captures the magic” in our lives.
A Different Foundation
Unlike other social media platforms, Transcend’s platform is not focused on monetization through ad revenue or selling user data. It’s designed with privacy and meaningful interactions in mind.
Because of this, Transcend is planned to be a subscription-based platform, likely for about $6-7 a month. The app is currently in the beta-testing stages and is available for free on the Apple App Store.
“When we look at traditional social media today, we are the product,” Phillips said.
He said using these platforms gives your data to big tech, which sells it to advertisers and uses it to influence or manipulate us. While users may not be directly paying for these social media platforms, their content, moments and memories are being sold and monetized.
So, Transcend had to be built on a different foundation.
Its users are not only more comfortable expressing themselves, Phillips said, but the platform provides a safe space for them to do so without worrying about traditional privacy concerns.
Among other concerns of modern social media, its usage has been linked to poor mental health.
Phillips said he wanted to build a platform that returned people to what matters most and do it in the right way, not at the cost of privacy or mental health.
According to Statistica, the number of United States social media users reached over 302 million in 2022. Regardless, Phillips says people are searching for a deeper way to connect with each other. Social media profiles are not accurate representations of who people are and enable only surface-level connections with others.
“We have all the tools that will allow you to facilitate and enable that type of interaction,” he said.
Among the Transcend app’s unique features is the ability to answer and send conversational prompts, known as ‘Starters.’ The prompts are described as a way to ‘help you build your legacy with ease.’ Each one can help share who you are, where you come from and what you’ve learned in your life.
The Transcend team worked with PhDs and industry experts to come up with thousands of prompts to encourage meaningful interactions and dive into deeper conversations with your ‘connections’ within the app. These connections could include your spouse, children, friends or anyone important to you.
Project Transcend recently launched a StartEngine crowdfunding campaign, reaching over $30K within the first six hours. StartEngine allows anyone to invest and buy shares in startups and early-stage companies.
To date, Transcend has raised over $54K. Phillips said they are confident in reaching $100K, and the funding will go towards advancing the experience, features and functionality within the app.
Phillips said that his team turned toward the public rather than going a more traditional financing route because they’re “not willing to compromise the integrity of the platform in order to raise funds.”
With institutional financing, Phillips said they typically want to invest in something that has a proven track record of being successful. Since Transcend is doing something radically different, it was best for the company to self-fund and build “a social media platform for the people by the people.”
“For me, this isn’t just a company,” he said. “This is a mission, this is a cause that I’m trying to advance.”
Not to say institutional money won’t come their way, Phillips continued, but if it comes at the cost of Transcend’s fundamental foundations, that’s not a route he’s willing to go down.
Phillips has lost many people along the way, including his mother about six months after launching Transcend. It was her passing that pushed him to pursue the company full-time, leaving his career as an executive in the emerging technology space.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” he said. “(But), sometimes you’ve got to push the chips in and do what’s right.”
Transcend partners with various organizations that share its values, and that are actively looking for ways to enhance the lives of the communities they serve. This includes individuals with illnesses, military and veterans, law enforcement, healthcare and first responders.
For every subscription purchased, Transcend will also gift a subscription—the “gift of legacy”—to those in communities in need.
“We firmly believe it’s not just a gimmick, that everyone’s life story matters, every legacy is important,” Phillips said. “It’s important for it to be put in the hands of anyone that needs it, not just those who can pay for it.”
Transcend needs to exist, he said, not just for himself and his own children, but for everyone out there.
The core team is comprised of the four founders: CFO/Director Robert Adams, COO Anthony Englese and CTO/Director Camden Ford. There are also a few others on the technical and operational side.
Phillips said they expect to grow their team in the next few months and hope to hire people in the Triangle.