Detroit-based social media startup ‘recreating human experience’ online

Detroit-based, husband and wife entrepreneurs Ziarekenya and Kathryn Smith are looking to infuse some transparency into the world of social media with their startup platform Inpathy.

At its core, Inpathy aims to challenge common notions of normal as it relates to social media, and subsequent pressures which imply nothing less than perfect is worth posting.

“Social media is fake, but what it’s doing to our mental health is very, very real,” Ziarekenya said.

The founders highlight some of these “very real” consequences to social media as we know it, sharing that of the 81% of “Gen-Zers” who use social media on a daily basis, 64% experience anxiety, 56% struggle with depression and 52% harbor dissatisfaction with their lives as a result of what they see online.

“We’re gearing up to transform online social interactions with more empathy and understanding,” Ziarekenya said, “and we believe we’ll be able to do that through transparent content and showing people what it is to be human again and have real authentic conversations.”

Inpathy initiates these authentic conversations by first asking each user to summarize how they’re feeling each day. Users may then upload video or audio clips in the form of a “story,” elaborating on what it is they’re feeling or going through at that moment in time.

“It’s all footage and audio — there’s no text, there’s no photos, just because you can empathize with people better if you’re listening to them and seeing them,” Ziarekenya said. “It’s a better, immersive way to connect with people.”

The in-app “emotional ecosystem” sorts different stories by moods — so if users are looking for content from others’ that echoes whatever they’re going through, it’s readily available for them to find. Alternatively, the ecosystem can be used to watch other users’ moods change in real time, feeding into the app’s goal of replicating the human emotional experience and amplifying shared vulnerabilities to diminish the taboos that come with displaying certain emotions online.

Community-building on the app forgoes the typical follower route by instead only allowing connections to be made once a conversation is started and reciprocated, with the goal of placing each party on a level playing field.

“Because if we really just step back and look at it, it’s kind of weird that we follow people without saying nothing to them,” Ziarekenya said. “Let’s put that into basic context in real life — that’s stalking!”

The application is proudly “made with love” within Detroit, fueled by Ziarekenya’s years of experience in branding and marketing for big name brands like Nike and Tencent and Kathryn’s expertise as a mental health professional.

“Inpathy also offers support, as well, like encouragement support, and [Kathryn] made sure Inpathy’s saying the right thing, giving the right support and just making sure that the app holds balance [and that] all the features are human-centered,” Ziarekenya said.

Inpathy was recently announced as one of 12 companies around the world selected for Techstars Detroit Powered by JP Morgan, an accelerator program designed to provide Black, Hispanic and Latino, Indigenous American and Pacific Islander entrepreneurs “equitable access, funding and support,” according to their website.

As the Smiths gear up to convince investors of their vision throughout the highly competitive 10-week Techstars program, their plan to unveil an invite-only beta version of Inpathy this November is gaining further support through a waitlist offering early access in exchange for a donation. The waitlist can be found at