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This “compliments” app was a huge hit with German teens, and now VCs are funding it in its next stage

The teenage app market is challenging to break into and remain relevant in. Ask Snapchat, please. Teenagers are also going through a time in their lives where almost every social interaction seems to portend something negative. This would help to explain why teen comment apps like SendIt, NGL, and Nocapp—some of which are connected to Snapchat—became so popular. And AskFM probably wants us all to forget about the numerous suicides that happened back when it was first released in its original form. (And you believed that Instagram was detrimental to mental health.

In the meantime, a new startup has mysteriously (somehow!?) emerged with the claim that yet another app will help this dumpster fire of social interactions, but let’s hear them out before drawing any quick conclusions.

A “positive social media network for teenagers,” according to “Slay.” The reason we are talking about it today is because it gained popularity quickly after its launch in Germany last year, where it quickly rose to the top of the German iOS App Store. It now asserts to have over 250,000 users who have registered, and it claims to be gaining popularity in other nations, including the UK, where it was just introduced.

So what draws people here? The app presents users with 12 questions when they first open it, and they can only respond by selecting a different user to anonymously compliment (or “slay”) (from their school, class, or peer group). For instance, the app might ask a user, “Who motivates me to give it my all?” Then, they can decide which of four other students from their school to pay for this “slay.” If they correctly respond to the 12 questions when logging in, they can then view compliments from other children. The person who sent the compliment’s identity is still unknown.

This reminds me of the functionality of BeReal, where viewing other BeReal photos requires uploading your own.

Slay is also comparable to Gas, the messaging app that Discord acquired yesterday and is well-liked among teenagers for its upbeat take on social media. Anonymous polling on Gas aims to increase user confidence.

The interest of VCs in Slay’s expansion is another factor that has caused it to appear on the TC radar.

It has since secured a $2.63 million (€2.5 million) pre-seed funding round from Accel. 20VC also participated. Ilkka Paananen, co-founder and CEO of Supercell, Scott Belsky, Mario Götze, Kevin Weil (Scribble Ventures), and Alex Pall, a musician are some additional investors (The Chainsmokers).

By rebalancing things away from the negative sentiments on social platforms and normalizing the giving of compliments, Slay claims it is trying to reset teens’ relationships with social media. Additionally, it claims that safety, content moderation, and teen mental wellbeing were built into the design. We’ll see…

Looking deeper into the app reveals that it was created very simply as a “compliment app.” It’s difficult to predict whether that will be sufficient to keep users coming back. Teenage behavior is challenging to predict. For example, receiving zero can also send a “signal.”

Slay asserts that it “never sells or shares personal data with third parties,” suffice it to say. Let’s see how long this lasts considering the history of social apps.

Additionally, there is no direct messaging feature. However, users can add links to their social media profiles, indicating that they will eventually be able to message one another outside of the app.

It is claimed that adults are not permitted to ‘join’ schools, and an approximate location is requested in order to suggest schools nearby. The app asks all queries and initiates all interactions, not the users.

A group of three 23-year-old co-founders from Berlin, Fabian Kamberi, Jannis Ringwald, and Stefan Quernhorst, created SLAY in 2022. The concept was Kamberi’s, who claims he was motivated by his siblings’ struggles with the negative aspects of social media apps during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kamberi had been developing consumer apps since he was a teenager.

In an email to me, CEO and Co-Founder Kamberi stated: “We see Slay in the future not only as an anonymous polling app [referring to the aforementioned Gas], but as the go-to spot for teens to rediscover social interactions in various play modes.”

“Our app is similar to Gas, and their acquisition provides excellent evidence of both what we have created and what the future of our industry holds. While we prevent cyberbullying through our strict content moderation and specially created gamemodes, apps that only use anonymous Q&A, for example, carry a high risk of cyberbullying.

But why, when so many social media platforms have failed, does he believe a social app can improve mental health?

In the midst of quick-paced, unfavorable social media interactions, he said, “We have received thousands of feedback messages from users thanking us for making them feel valued.”

He said the startup could certainly launch new features that might increase engagement but that there was also a chance for backlash: Therefore, we put a lot of emphasis on each user’s unique experience, trying to make it as good as we can. He stated that “content safety” is the startup’s job.

What is Slay’s business strategy then? How will it generate income? According to Kamberi, users will likely have to pay for premium features, services, or tools. “We are currently building several exclusive, paid play modes as well as add-ons, which we will release through feedback cycles with users and supported by data,” she says.

Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom all offer SLAY.

In a statement, Julien Bek, Principal at Accel, added: “We’re extremely impressed by the SLAY app, both in terms of its quick appeal to teenagers and the team’s admirable objective of enhancing adolescent mental health in the digital world. Nearly half of the SLAY team’s active users already use it each school day.

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