The teen market for apps is a tough nut to crack and stay relevant. Just ask Snapchat. Likewise, teens go through a phase of life where almost every social interaction seems to be a prelude to some other. This would partly explain why apps like SendIt, NGL, and Nocapp (some of which are Snapchat-connected tools) took off as ways for teens to interact anonymously. And AskFM would probably like us all to forget about the various suicides that happened when it used to be released in its original form. (And you thought Instagram is bad for mental health…).
Meanwhile, somehow (somehow!?) a new startup has popped up with the idea that yet another app is going to help this dumpster of social interactions, but let’s hear them before jumping to conclusions.
“Slay” bills itself as a “positive social media network for teens”. The reason we’re talking about it today is that it’s grown like crazy since its launch last year in Germany, where it reached No. 1 in the German iOS App Store four days after launch. It now claims to have over 250,000 registered users and claims to be gaining popularity in other countries, including the UK, where it recently launched.
So what’s the appeal here? When users open the app, users are shown 12 questions that the user can only answer by choosing another user (from their school, class, or age group) to give an anonymous compliment (or “slay”). For example, the app might ask a user “Who inspires me to do my best?”. They can then choose from four other users of their school to pay this ‘slay’. They can then view compliments from other children, provided they answer the 12 questions when logging in. The identities of those who sent the compliment remain hidden.
This reminds me of BeReal’s mechanic where you can only see other people’s BeReal photos by uploading your own photos.
And Slay is also not unlike Gas, the messaging platform popular among teens for its positive spin on social media, acquired by Discord yesterday. On Gas, anonymous polling is intended to increase user confidence.
The other reason Slay has appeared on the TC radar is that its growth has piqued the interest of VCs.
It has now raised a $2.63 million (€2.5 million) pre-seed funding round led by Accel. 20VC also participated. Additional investors including Supercell co-founder and CEO Ilkka Paananen, Behance founder Scott Belsky, football star Mario Götze, Kevin Weil (Scribble Ventures), and musician Alex Pall (The Chainsmokers).
Slay says it aims to reset the teen relationship with social apps by rebalancing negative feelings on social platforms by normalizing compliments. It also says it’s designed with security, content moderation, and teen mental wellbeing built in. We will see…
If you dive into the app, you can see that it is very simply built as a ‘compliments app’. Whether that will be enough to keep users coming back is hard to say. Teenagers’ behavior is hard to guess. Getting zero, for example, can also send a ‘signal’.
Suffice it to say, Slay claims it will “never sell or share personal information with third parties”. Given the history of social apps, let’s see how long this lasts.
There’s also no direct messaging capability, although users can add links to social media profiles, so it’s clear they’ll eventually be able to message each other off-app.
Adults are supposedly not allowed to “join” schools, and the approximate location is asked to suggest nearby schools. All questions and interactions are asked by the app, not users themselves.
SLAY was founded in 2022 by a team of three 23-year-old Berlin-based co-founders: Fabian Kamberi, Jannis Ringwald and Stefan Quernhorst. The idea came from Kamberi, who has been building apps for consumers since he was a teenager, and says he was inspired by his siblings’ experiences struggling with the negativity of social media apps during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CEO and co-founder Kamberi told me via email, “We don’t just see Slay as an anonymous polling app in the future [referring to the aforementioned Gas]but as the place for teenagers to rediscover social interactions in different game modes.”
“Our app is similar to Gas, and their acquisition shows great proof of what we’ve built and what’s to come in our space in the future. Apps that rely solely on anonymous Q&A, for example, have a high risk of cyberbullying, which we prevent through our rigorous content moderation and specially designed game modes,” he added.
But the question is, why does he think a social app can improve mental health when so many social apps haven’t?
“We received thousands of feedback messages from users thanking us for making them feel valued in times of fast, negative social media interactions,” he told me.
He said the startup could offer new features that could create more engagement, but at the same time carry a risk of negativity: “So we’re very focused on the individual experience each user has, aiming to make it as positive as possible.” He said the startup’s job is “content security.”
So what is Slay’s business model? How will it bring in money? Kamberi says it will likely be premium features, services or tools that users pay for: “We are currently building several exclusive, paid game modes and add-ons, which we will release through feedback cycles with users and backed by data.”
SLAY is available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Julien Bek, Principal at Accel, added via a statement: “We are extremely impressed with the SLAY app, both for its instant popularity among teens and the team’s positive goal of improving teen mental health in the digital world. to improve. The SLAY team has already seen almost half of its active users use it every school day.”