In a world defined by social networking, one cannot escape the influence it has on everyday life. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, though entertaining, do not often bring elevated content and drive personal introspection. Through RIZZARR, Ashley Michelle Williams intends to add a more intentionally intellectually stimulating dimension to social media.
Williams is the CEO and founder of RIZZARR, a new form of social networking and multimedia platform designed to inspire young people to share resonant content such as news articles or interesting studies rather than filtered photos of their best friend’s birthday cake.
“I always felt that there was a need for a space for young people to talk and connect on, and to encourage and inspire each other,” Williams said.
With this in mind, Williams created a social network that allows millenials to not only share timely content they find on the Internet, but to also create content themselves. RIZZARR is like an Internet-accessible coffeehouse bulletin board, as it brings together current news and events with articles, prose, poetry and opinion pieces generated by users. Most importantly, Williams intends for RIZZARR to be a safe starting point for new ideas.
“Millennials can really drive change, and I think that goes to the heart of what RIZZARR is, especially by combining it with a platform of constructive thought,” Williams said.
RIZZARR lets users choose a pseudonym or a pen name so that it is only the opinions of users that are judged, as opposed to more superficial aspects like how they look or what they choose to wear. As a consequence of this, a social network maintained on RIZZARR can become a support system for users instead of a source of ridicule and pain. Users can safely talk about tough issues affecting their personal lives in a manner they know will have limited social implications.
“You can discuss not only your relationships, but also issues as deep-reaching as depression or eating disorders,” Williams said. “Whatever you are going through, you can talk about that, and I feel like it can be very supportive for people.”
In a world dominated by social networks that often focus on the superficial, RIZZAR aims to offer a positive outlet for those going through struggles or who simply want to share their opinions. RIZZARR aptly fills a gap that Williams believes has been prevalent in social media for some time. There is a lack of inspiration, compassion and sensitivity in the social network space, and RIZZARR hopes to fill that hole she says.
In addition, RIZZARR has ambitions to provide a competitive marketing tool for companies trying to reach millenials through a new channel.
“We also want brands to use our platform to authentically engage with millennials and to inspire them in ways that can help them to lead better lives through using their products,” Williams said
Through Williams was inspired to start RIZZARR when she noticed an obvious hole in the social network world, it was her time at USC that equipped her with the skills and knowledge to start a business in the media sector.
In particular, Williams credits one of her journalism professors, Lincoln Bandlow, who served as an advisor for her throughout the process of building RIZZARR.
“My USC professors really helped me understand the legal implications of starting a business and being involved in the media,” Williams said. “Most importantly, they thoroughly ingrained the process of copyright issues and patents.”
During her time at USC, Williams was involved with several different campus organizations and held leadership positions in many, including Trojan Vision.
As of now, RIZZARR is going through its first round of seed funding, which in start-up terms means it is looking for investors from different venture capital firms, as well as angel donors, some of which may be from the Trojan family, Williams said.
Currently RIZZARR has 1,000 monthly active users, and while it is clear by the design of the website that it is still in its early stages, this new website holds promise for a new constructive social media outlet. Potential new users can visit RIZZARR at rizzarr.com.