The idea of friends fighting each other in a dance battle may not be new, but Austin-based startup Virtual Arts is bringing the idea to the virtual world with its first app, DanceFight.
Similar to apps like TikTok, Instagram Reels, or Triller, which allow users to post and view short videos, DanceFight aims to enter the realm of video-based social media and capture the competitive nature of Gen Z.
Rather than independent videos or a collaboration, DanceFight focuses on competition. DanceFight’s social video world allows users to scroll through trending dance videos and provides a game-like experience where they can fight side-to-side and vote for their favorites.
Virtual Arts recently launched the app and closed $ 2 million in seed funding to further develop the platform. It’s available on the Apple App Store and will be launching on the Google Play Store soon.
Ryan Jordan and Rich Sloan founded the company in 2018 after meeting at South by Southwest and began developing the app shortly thereafter.
The application is designed to bring together the worlds of social video and video games. Jordan said he came up with the idea after working as an executive director of the Austin-based Amala Foundation, a nonprofit focused on personal growth. At the organization’s annual youth summit, Jordan said he has seen the power of music and dance to connect people from different backgrounds and even overcome language barriers.
“We noticed year after year that the first day would be quite awkward, but music and dancing was a big way for the kids to connect,” Jordan said. “That was the original inspiration: we can create a mobile community where kids, no matter where they are in the world, can jump on a really safe and inclusive platform and have fun, compete. and dance, sing, etc. “
The app allows users to choose from millions of songs and collaborates with musical artists and major record companies Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group.
“We definitely have a lot of dancers out there now who are really good dancers and provide a lot of entertaining content,” Sloan said. “But the idea is that you, regardless of your skill level, can participate in the game to challenge a friend to dance combat and have fun connecting that way.”
Users can fight any other user on the app or share it with friends to fight directly. They earn points by participating in dance fights, voting on other people’s dance fights, and creating content. Sloan said the company is working on partnerships that will bring high-profile artists to the platform.
“You will be able to dance with your favorite artist as we continue to evolve this,” Sloan said. “We have an ongoing collaboration with Sony Music, Universal Music, and Warner Music and their artists are coming to the platform for dance challenges, and you can dance right next to them.”
The business earns money through in-app purchases, including premium effects and filters, plus the ability to subscribe to your favorite creators, virtual tips, referrals, and ad revenue.
In October, the app will begin offering tournament-style dance combat options, Jordan said. The feature will allow people to create competitions within a high school or other group of people, or restrict who can see and vote on a battle.
The company’s long-term plan is to expand beyond dance to other forms of competitive content including singing, comedy, rap, cheerleading, basketball tricks. , skateboarding and other action sports.
The company has 11 full-time employees and plans to add approximately 20 members to its Austin-based team over the next year in development and design.
Dancefight also emphasizes safety, according to its founders. Unlike other video-focused apps, users can’t send each other direct messages or comments. The app also checks for any inappropriate text or video content being downloaded, according to the company.
While competition is the focus, users also can’t see what the resulting voting margins were, and anyone who takes part in a dance battle always gets points whether they win or lose.
Sloan said the idea is to minimize bullying and let users feel free to express themselves.
“We are creating a really positive, really safe and really inclusive and responsive environment for the young people who participate,” Sloan said. “We think we are creating a really great environment for these young people where expression is rewarded, people are safe and the idea of being brave and daring is always a very good thing.”