Squad, the ‘anti-bro startup,’ is creating a safe space for teenage girls online

… Squad’s compelling founding story and organic growth helped them close a $5 million seed round led by First Round Capital general partner Hayley …

When we go online to communicate, hang out or play, we’re typically logging on to platforms conceived of and built by men.

Mark Zuckerberg famously created Facebook in his Harvard dorm room. Evan Spiegel and his frat brother Bobby Murphy devised a plan for the ephemeral messaging app Snapchat while the pair were still students at Stanford. Working out of a co-working space, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger built Instagram and yes, they also went to Stanford.

Seldom have social tools created by women climbed the latter to mainstream success. Instead, women and girls have battled the lion’s share of digital harassment on popular social platforms — most of which failed early-on to incorporate security features tailored to minority user’s needs — and struggled to find a protected corner of the internet.

Squad, an app that allows you to video chat and share your phone screen with a friend in real-time, has tapped into a demographic clamoring for a safe space to gather online. Without any marketing, the startup has collected 450,000 registered users in eight months, 70% of which are teenage girls. So far this year, users have clocked in 1 million hours inside Squad calls.

“Completely accidentally we’ve developed this global audience of users and it’s girls all over the world,” Squad co-founder and chief executive officer Esther Crawford tells TechCrunch. “In India, it’s girls. In Saudia Arabia, it’s girls. In the U.S., it’s girls. Even without us localizing it, girls all over the world are finding it.”

Squad screens

Squad, the social screen sharing and group video chat app, has pulled together a $5 million investment led by First Round Capital.

Learn from the best but get rid of the shit

A remote team of six people led by Crawford, who’s a graduate of Oregon State University, Squad’s compelling founding story and organic growth helped them close a $5 million seed round led by First Round Capital general partner Hayley Barna, the only female partner at the historically all-male early-stage investment fund known for being the first institutional check in Uber.

Betaworks, Alpha Bridge Ventures, Day One Ventures, Jane VC, Mighty Networks CEO Gina Bianchini, early Snapchat employee Sebastian Gil and Y Combinator, the startup accelerator program Squad completed in the winter of 2018, have also participated in the funding round.

“We want to be a place where girls can come and hang out,” -Squad co-founder and CEO Esther Crawford.

Crawford describes Squad, which she’s built alongside her co-founder and chief technology officer Ethan Sutin, as the “anti-bro startup.” Not only because it’s led by a woman and boasts a cap table that’s 30% women and 30% people of color, but because she’s completely rewriting the consumer social startup playbook.

“We are trying to learn from the best in what they did but get rid of the shit,” Crawford said, referring to Snap, WhatsApp, Twitch and others. Twitch, a live-streaming platform for gamers, has become a social gathering place for Gen Z, she explains, but like many other communities on the internet, it’s failed its female users.

“Girls have been completely pushed off of Twitch,” she said. “The Twitch community didn’t want them there and they weren’t friendly to them. For boys, there are places you can go to consume content with other people, like Fortnite, but for girls there hasn’t been a place that’s really broken out. We want to be a place where girls can come and hang out.”

What Crawford and the small team at Squad have realized is that you don’t have to sacrifice growth for user safety and comfort. From the beginning, Squad has made sure users could easily block and report inappropriate behaviors and users, a feature that was an afterthought on many other social tools. They also made users unsearchable unless another user knows their exact username. By prioritizing the security of its primarily female audience, Squad is betting girls will continue coming back to the app and telling their friends about it.

“It’s possible to make girls feel safe and still have growth as a consumer product,” she said. “If people don’t feel safe on your app, they won’t stick around long-term.”

A new playbook

Squad quietly launched in January after pivoting away from building an information-sharing tool called Molly, which was backed with $1.5 million from BBG, Betaworks, CrunchFund and Halogen Ventures. Crawford’s now 14-year-old daughter unintentionally inspired the transition, when she proposed her mom create an app where she could peer into her best friend’s phones from afar.

IMG 2588

This reporter and Squad CEO Esther Crawford discuss the startup’s growth via Squad video chat.

Using Squad, people can browse memes, pore through DMs, plan a trip on Airbnb, peruse Tinder or a photo album with a friend via its video chat and screen share features. As Crawford describes it, it’s all the stuff you don’t want to post to Snap or Instagram but want to show your best friends. An app that may seem frivolous or non-essential seems to have quickly become a space online where girls can are opting to spend hours intimately engaged with their friends — without fear of stumbling into a troll.

“People can use this digital tech to hang out together instead of it being so performative,” Crawford said.

The downside of Squad’s screen sharing capabilities is a user can view another user’s Facebook friend’s profile, even if, say, they themselves were blocked from viewing that content. Most apps are available for viewing through screen share aside from premium video streaming apps like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, so its entirely possible someone could use Squad solely for the purpose of viewing social content they are otherwise barred from seeing. In response to this possibility, Crawford says they are considering alerting users when their Squad chat’s been screen-shotted. To avoid additional privacy issues, Squad users can’t record or save anything from their calls or replay what happened on Squad.

Like many early-stage startups, the company isn’t making any money yet because the app is free and without ads. As soon as next year, however, Squad plans to monetize the product with in-app purchasing, scraping another rule from the consumer social playbook that has long encouraged companies to expand their user base first before trying to profit off users at all. (See: The Snapchat Monetization Problem).

Techno-optimism

Crawford, a product marketing veteran, grew up in a cult in Oregon where girls were barred from wearing makeup and from watching television or listening to music. But because the internet was so early, the dangers of it were yet to be discovered and miraculously, she was allowed to go online. Quickly, she made connections with people all over the world thanks to everyone’s favorite messaging tool at the time, AOL Instant Messenger.

The experience planted in her a deep love for the internet and a desire to share her life online. After developing a community through AIM, Crawford became one of the very first original content creators on YouTube and garnered millions of views on her videos. Without trying, she became an influencer, long before the term entered the zeitgeist.

Squad Screensharing1

She used her newfound digital prowess to launch one of the first social marketing agencies, where her clients included Weight Watchers and K-Mart, legacy brands that had no idea how to tap into her native digital communities. Ultimately, Crawford landed in the tech startup world, hopping from Series A startup to Series A startup, offering up her product marketing skills before her daughter’s idea prompted her to go into business on her own again.

“I’m a techno-optimist and yet, so many of these tech companies we thought were going to connect people turned out to have accidentally made people more lonely,” she said. “With a different lense and approach, I thought there could be an app that built bridges.”

Now with a new bout of funding, Squad can implement strategic marketing campaigns, continue adding integrations with complementary platforms (the startup has just announced a new integration with YouTube) and hire product designers. The next few years will be critical to Squad’s success as it looks to young people to give them a permanent spot on their home screen.

For Crawford, what’s most important, aside from growing group of teenagers using Squad, is to make sure only good people see a big payday thanks to her great idea: “I am ready to do everything I can to make Squad successful and make sure our success has a positive downstream effect so that we have great people on our team that get rich off our success.”

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Diagonal View to Bring Over 1500 Hours of Content and 15 million Fans from Its Popular YouTube …

The platform supports a variety of monetization models, such as cryptocurrency and its own MoviBits virtual currency, and offers viewers a gamified …

Diagonal View, a digital video network, delivering tens of millions of subscribers and billions of views across YouTube and other digital platforms generated from professionally produced content that BitMovio users will now enjoy through the next-gen gamified streaming video platform

BitMovio announced its partnership with digital video network Diagonal View to acquire video programming from 16 of its popular YouTube channels that reach over 15 million subscribers. With this partnership, BitMovio will acquire over 1,500 hours of new content for its blockchain-enabled video entertainment marketplace, available in open beta to users around the world via web browsers, iOS and Android devices. Diagonal View develops original content across dozens of growing channels, many of which will now be available to BitMovio audiences, including Football Daily, Euro Football Daily, FDFC, AllTime 10’s, Alltime Movies, Draw My Life, AllTime Conspiracies, 101 Facts, Debunked, 24 Swish and more.

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Simon Zhu, Co-founder and CEO of BitMovio, said: “What makes BitMovio unique from other streaming video platforms like YouTube is that we’re dedicated to enabling content creators to distribute their videos without bureaucracy or barriers. Creators can develop personalized channels on BitMovio with flexible monetization and business rules. This enables them to instantly engage with their global audience and grow their fan bases, with superior economics, engagement and transparency that are enabled by blockchain technology and enhanced by ‘gamification’ elements such as our MoviBits virtual currency, features which are the driving force behind global entertainment success stories such as Fortnite and many others. Diagonal View is the ideal partner for bringing premium content to our community across a variety of popular genres that our community will enjoy, like gaming and eSports, sports, paranormal, life-style, sci-fi, horror, and more.”

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Matt Heiman, MD of Diagonal View said: “BitMovio shares our vision of enabling creators to develop bespoke pieces of content and then build an engaged fan base anywhere online. They bring an innovative approach to managing, distributing and monetizing video content that allows us to drive new revenue streams while building new fan bases on the BitMovio platform.”

A cross between Twitch, Netflix and Patreon, BitMovio is a new form of video entertainment marketplace enabled by blockchain technologies and in-platform virtual goods. The platform supports a variety of monetization models, such as cryptocurrency and its own MoviBits virtual currency, and offers viewers a gamified user experience, including real-time chat, on-screen bullet chat, tipping, gifting, micro-transactions, per-channel subscriptions and reward-based advertising that create an engaging and connected global community. BitMovio’s streaming video platform features a wide array of genres, including gaming, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, paranormal/UFOs, conspiracy and more. Over the past several months, the company has signed over 4,500 hours of premium video content from premium film and television networks and studios, global production companies, YouTube networks, independent film producers and individual influencers.

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Could an Elon Musk and xQc Overwatch stream actually happen? Twitch star makes an offer

Top Twitch streamer Felix ‘xQc’ Lengyel appears to be hoping to get an Overwatch session with Elon Musk – as well as some inside information about …

The former Dallas Fuel star didn’t opt to send a video message or even make an on-stream plea, but instead tagged Musk in a tweet with his offer during his July 28 broadcast – where he was, again, playing the popular Kerbal Space Program.

“Hey @elonmusk, my community and I would love to learn about rockets and livestream a tour at @SpaceX,” he tweeted. “It would be amazing, maybe some Overwatch duos after?”

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Wendy’s plays ‘Fortnite’ on Twitch to launch Baconfest

… free Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers with no delivery fee for customers who use the code “BACONFEST” while placing a food order from Doordash.

Brief:

  • Wendy’s on July 17 returned to Twitch to play the hit game “Fortnite” with its digital avatar and live-streamed the action to promote the launch of Baconfest, per an announcement. The burger chain’s Twitch channel offered free Baconator sandwiches to the first 1,000 viewers who placed an order through delivery service Doordash while using the code “BACON.”
  • Wendy’s is also offering free Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers with no delivery fee for customers who use the code “BACONFEST” while placing a food order from Doordash. Customers need to spend a minimum of $10 to get the free offer, which started on July 17 and runs through July 21.
  • Free Baconator Fries are being offered to customers who place an order through its mobile app until Aug. 25. App users need to register an account, and can order the free fries for one time only or while supplies last, per its announcement.

Insight:

Wendy’s Baconfest returned to previously used tactics like building a presence on Twitch as it looks to reach younger consumers who are more likely to be fans of videogames and to order food through mobile apps. The burger chain is tapping into the growing popularity of watching others play videogames like through livestreams on digital platforms such as Twitch, which is owned by Amazon. Twitch is the No. 1 platform for streaming live video, accounting for 70% of all livestreamed hours watched during Q2 2019, per a study by StreamElements.

The biggest challenge with Twitch is that most of its viewing time is centered on the activity of its 5,000 most popular streamers. The concentration of viewership typically means that brands need to partner with popular streamers like Tfue, Shroud and Ninja for endorsement deals. Wendy’s Twitch channel only has about 27,000 followers, possibly indicating that few Twitch viewers are willing to watch branded channels. The video of the burger chain’s avatar, which resembles Wendy’s pigtailed mascot, playing “Fortnite” was viewed more than 1,700 times as of the morning of July 18. Wendy’s has had more social-media success on Twitter, where the brand expresses a humorous, sassy persona that has built up a following of 3.24 million users.

Wendy’s earned accolades for a similar campaign called “Keeping Fortnite Fresh” that featured an in-game demonstration of the evils of frozen beef. Agency VMLY&R created a Wendy’s avatar for the game who ignored other players instead of trying to shoot at them, a key object of “Fortnite.” Instead, the Wendy’s avatar entered burger restaurants inside the game’s unpopulated cityscape, located the freezers and destroyed them, Ad Age reported. The campaign demonstrated how brands can adapt to the viewing habits of younger audiences who have shunned traditional media channels like TV and print in favor playing games like “Fortnite” or watching other players on Twitch.

Similarly, Nike’s Jordan Brand also created an integrated campaign with “Fortnite” that featured new avatars showing off some of the athletic apparel brand’s signature sneakers in the game.

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Twitch has brought back Bitcoin payments

The user writes: “They are using BitPay though. But still awesome.” Twitch reintroducing Bitcoin payments on its platform has been received incredibly …

After removing the option to make Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash payments earlier in the year, streaming platform Twitch has reportedly reintroduced the ability to use crypto to donate to your favourite streamers.

Coin Rivet reported on the platform removing Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash payments back in March. Twitch did not provide a reason for the decision, opting to silently remove the function instead. Coin Rivet reached out for a comment at the time, though no response was received.

The reintroduction of crypto payments was first noticed by a Reddit user, who posted their findings on the site. The user has uploaded a photo showing someone in the process of donating to a Twitch streamer in Canada with crypto.

While the photo depicts the payment option as “Bitcoin”, it doesn’t appear to be a direct Bitcoin donation, as one user has pointed out that the service is being facilitated by BitPay, which was used by the site previously and converts the crypto into fiat before sending. The user writes: “They are using BitPay though. But still awesome.”

Twitch reintroducing Bitcoin payments on its platform has been received incredibly well on Reddit, with the post generating upwards of 1,800 upvotes.

The timing of the move is interesting in light of Bitcoin’s recent parabolic rise in price. This suggests that with the price of crypto no longer dwindling in the bear market, mainstream businesses are once again paying attention to cryptocurrency.

Interested in reading more Bitcoin and Twitch-related stories? Discover more about the Twitch streamer who received a staggering 20 Bitcoin donation while playing Runescape live.

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