Jessica Moreno and her co-founder Dan McComas couldn’t find the kind of inclusive online community they were looking for when they left Reddit in the summer of 2015, so they left the Bay Area and headed west to Salt Lake City to start Imzy, a community platform encouraging kinder interactions with like-minded individuals.
Moreno and McComas spent six years prior to starting Imzy cultivating community and learning the ropes at the site boasting itself as “The front page of the internet.” McComas came in as the founder of Redditgifts, a section of the site allowing people to send gifts to friends, and Moreno worked with him for about five years before becoming Reddit’s head of community.
Moreno says the decision to leave was “difficult,” but at the time Reddit was known for pulling out the darker elements of the web with seedy and offensive comments rampant on the site. That summer Reddit’s interim CEO Ellen Pao, who’d famously lost a gender discrimination lawsuit earlier that same year, stepped in to curb the deluge of hateful subreddits.
Pao faced a serious backlash from the community and many called the move “censorship.” One user even started a petition on Change.org asking for Pao’s resignation. It worked; Pao stepped down and the harassing comments continued.
Moreno decided it was time to exit, as well, and soon after moved with McComas to the up-and-coming startup community nestled in Utah’s “Silicon Slopes” where she had family and the cost of living was much cheaper than the Bay Area.
Imzy opened up the platform to the public last fall and has since grown to tens of thousands of users with over 6,000 Imzy communities.
It uses the same kinds of threaded comments, subreddit-like sections and interaction as you might find on a site like Reddit, so it’s easy to make comparisons, but it started out with basic rules on how people should treat each other while interacting on the site and comments are monitored to make sure no one is bullied.
Does that cause a reaction or accusations of censorship? Not so much, according to Moreno. “The people who came to us in the beginning were pretty supportive of [those rules] and they wanted to help maintain that,” she told me on a recent visit to her office in downtown Salt Lake City.
Imzy doesn’t allow hate speech and the open stance on inclusion instead creates a safe space for members who might feel more comfortable exploring communities and speaking on threads knowing they can do so free of ridicule. And you can find almost anything you want on the site, including a community for cat lovers, toy collectors, Star Trek enthusiasts or those interested in polyamory.
I chatted with Moreno about building the site and what it’s like running her own open and inclusive community platform in the heart of Utah’s capital. You can see that interview and learn more about Imzy in the video above.
*This article is part of a larger series focusing on the Utah tech scene. We’re going to be sprinkling several of these articles and videos throughout the TechCrunch newsfeed for the next couple of weeks, so strap on your ski boots and stay tuned as we guide you through the “Silicon Slopes”!
Featured Image: Felicia Williams