Antoine McLaughlin occupied his time during the pandemic-induced quarantine by creating a business that most would be apprehensive about, but McLaughlin found it beneficial. When he was brainstorming potential investors to connect with, he immediately considered rapper Soulja Boy because he would be the perfect hype man and investor for his Kandiid app. In addition, the Hip Hop star astutely utilized social media in his infancy to launch his musical career.
Inspiration struck McLaughlin to develop a pre-pandemic software application when he was on a date with his girlfriend and pondered why there was not an app available where he could save his pictures in one place and then have the ability to monetize the images. He toiled on the idea for two to three years and incorporated the company in April 2020.
“I realized this is the perfect platform where we can shift from social media and posting things for free and value your content [by] owning your content, and that’s when I first established the concept,” he says, looking back. Users of the platform can take advantage of the option to monetize their content.
The Kandiid app can deep link and encourage collaboration with other social media platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok, Twitter, and Facebook. The app’s objective is to become a one-stop shop for different platforms.
“We can’t directly compete and say, ‘hey, leave on your social media, come on, Kandiid.’ More so, use Kandiid as a middleman to your other outlets,” he explains the versatility of the digital application. “A lot of creators, influencers, and artists do more than one thing, and the benefit is that you may want to promote every day.”
Linking inside the app will allow the user to highlight their other activities: “There is no shadow banning, we’re rated 17, so it’s a mature platform. We won’t stop you from posting what you want to post. We want creators to be [themselves]which was big for me when I first made the platform.”
Soulja Boy’s involvement with the app proved highly impactful in increasing brand awareness. In October 2021, the “Turn My Swag On” artist publicized Kandiid on the nationally syndicated radio show – The Breakfast Club, resulting in 15,000 new users in a day for the app, causing Kandiid to trend at #71 in the app store.
Soulja Boy is more than a public advocate of the software program; He also co-owns the app with McLaughlin and is hands-on with its development. Chief Strategic Advisor Lew Tucker, former President of Bad Boy Entertainment, brokered bringing the influential rapper into the company.
“He created a lot of buzz, which was a huge milestone, and that was organic; it wasn’t paid marketing, it was just us believing in the product, and users started using it when they came on board and said, ‘wow , this is a different field, this is unique. We aren’t that
Bugatti yet of an app that takes a long time, but [we’re] just getting to where we need, like in steps and looking at how users interact with it. You know, it helped out,” he admits.
Soulja Boy was the first celebrity to join as an equity holder, and because of the urging of McLaughlin’s brother, he decided to reach out to the self-made artist to pitch him the idea of the app.
McLaughlin’s partnership with the “Rick & Morty” artist has proven advantageous. Soulja Boy became the first celebrity to join as an equity holder, and the collaboration between the two 31-year-olds resulted from the urging of McLaughlin’s brother. The latter encouraged him to slide into Soulja Boy’s DMs because, as he recalled, Soulja would understand what the young tech entrepreneur was seeking to accomplish.
“I kid you not, I DM’d Soulja Boy, he wrote me back like I’m interested in hearing [about it]and we got on a zoom call, and I’m like, yo, this is really Soulja Boy,” he says, recalling the astonishment he felt on that life-altering day. He further explains how their meetup was serendipitous when Soulja recognized McLaughlin’s Chief of Strategy, Lew Tucker, a former music executive whom Soulja knew of through Tucker’s attorney. Once they all agreed to the legal terms of the deal, Soulja signed on as a business partner.
“He was consistent. I think a lot of people that have ideas, business opportunities that they want you to be a part of, and they’ll say one time, and then that’s it. But I felt he was very consistent after I responded and was like, ‘Yo, let’s make it happen.’ He was on top of it,” Soulja says, expressing his reasons for jumping on this unique project. “He was explaining everything to me, and it was already something that I was open to doing. I think social networks, apps, the internet, and different platforms [are] the future. He’s ahead of the curve, and he’s hands-on being a Black man doing it; I want to do whatever I can to help him and take it to the next level.”
The intriguing selling point for Soulja was the app’s concept, where users can make money from their content.
“I feel like a lot of creators; they come out with dances, videos, vlogs, content pitches, whatever it may be, music, and they have not been paid properly from the material they create. These songs or videos go viral for millions of people to see, you can upload [on the app]sell it, and make money from it, and that’s what caught me and stood out to me about the pitch.”
He continues with, “I think that’s good for everybody. Who doesn’t want to get paid from the content that they created? Even though we’re making the content for free, and people are viewing the content for free, the people that own the app, they’re making profit from ad revenues.”
McLaughlin wants to alleviate many social media users’ anxiety when they frequently post by rewarding them for their efforts. If an individual has over two hundred images, they are welcome to photo dump on the app.
“We want you to post all the time. That’s the beauty, and right now, we have over 40,000 uploaded images inside of Kandiid. So people do post a lot of content,” he assures.
The duo intends to market to the Black creators of Tik Tok, and they are currently raising funds to increase their marketing budget, but they want the Black culture to remain cognizant of the value they bring to any platform.
“We blew up the clubhouse during the pandemic, but we want [users] to control their content. Most social media shadow bans when you promote other things, they take down your Instagram, you can’t go online and say what you want to say, we’re literally in a social media prison,” McLaughlin says. “We don’t have any filters. We want the app to allow people full creative freedom, and we are not here at all like to benefit off of your content and not give back. That’s the whole point of Candid; you get 85 percent of the revenue.”
Gaining traction with early adopters is challenging for any new social media platform. Other artists who respect Soulja both as an entrepreneur and artist have followed him and opened up accounts on the app.
“We’ve had some artists like Stack Pack, who has a million followers on Instagram; he came because of Soulja Boy and many others. It’s a chain reaction to get other artists and celebrities to understand what we’re trying to do here at Kandiid and to control the narrative. Also, micro-influencers are very important to get their name out there. The stars on Tik Tok started with no followers; like the D’Amelio sisters, they’re the biggest influencers on Tik Tok and grew with the platform. So we’re definitely highlighting people that are on Kandiid now that are growing with us, too,” McLaughlin.
Side note, this interview with McLaughin and Soulja Boy was conducted before Tik Tok user Kamby was named the most popular Tik Tok account topping the D’Amelio sisters, as previously reported by Forbes.
Soulja Boy, now a new father, is not only known for his Hip Hop bops but also for the numerous businesses he owns. Retaining ownership in the various ventures he is involved in is very important to him because he wants to pass what he has accumulated down for the benefit of future generations.
Soulja uses the app to promote his “fly photo shoots,” tours, vacations, and albums. “I look at the other apps like Instagram and Facebook and see what my audience gravitates to and try to bring that to [Kandiid].
The reception from other users on the platform has generally been positive. Both men continue to update the app, making it compatible with NFTs and cryptocurrency with a new feature called “The Club” that many other social platforms do not have.
They are open to new investors as they continue to improve the app. In addition to Soulja, McLaughlin recruited three NFL players as investors. The company is currently in a Series A round that began January 1, 2022, led by a group of angel funders in San Antonio, Texas.
These enterprising young men have big dreams for their app; the goal for Kaniid is to build a legacy for their families, and hopefully, they will have the chance to stand in Times Square, ringing the New York Stock Exchange bell to announce their IPO.
“I’m trying to go down in history as the first Black-owned unicorn of a social media like that’s my goal. I can show my children not to go through the struggles I went through growing up by having a successful app. I want to change the world because people can now make money and become millionaires on Kandiid. That’s my biggest thing; I want to make millionaires on a platform I created. I want to give people the ability to change their life on something. Soulja and I just sit down like, let’s give people the opportunity because they may not be creators or thinkers in that capacity. But that doesn’t mean they can’t monetize themselves and use the platform to make money. When we’re making millionaires – we did it.”
Soulja adds to McLaughlin’s affirmation by saying, “I want to leave something that’s going to be around, like people can go back and read it six, seven years [from now]. I want to make history.”
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