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Teens are willing to pay. How TeenUP, a social network for smart teenagers, develops

Friday, February 5, 2021

“Users need new specialized social networks,” said the hero of one of our previous articles. There is a startup that has registered on the Rocket DAO platform, which confirms this thesis: the TeenUP team has launched an educational social network for teenagers. The project is actively growing, and we talked to the CEO of TeenUP Olga Ivanenko about all the details.

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What TeenUP is

TeenUP is a social network for creative teens. With its help, young people can learn new things, find like-minded people and monetize their skills.

For the first time, the idea of creating a social network for the development of children and adults appeared about 5 months ago. It is based on the simple concept “children teach children”. The incentive for content creators is to make money using their intelligence when recording educational videos.

We surveyed more than 150 teenagers aged 11 to 17 from different countries and confirmed our hypothesis on the demand for such a service.

We made MVP in about a month. At the same time, we did not limit ourselves to AppStore only but confidently went to Play Market to provide maximum access to the network. In a few months, we went from the idea to an application with thousands of users from 15 countries and first paid subscriptions.

TeenUP startup
Click on the image to open startup's profile on the Rocket DAO platform

In general, the entire TeenUP is built on the ideas of children — we involve them as advisors and customers, and only observe and analyze the needs of the audience. We can say that the entire TeenUp is invented by children. And adults are implementing their ideas. The logo and the name of the project were also chosen by our users.

We created a Facebook group to bring together English-speaking teenagers who are potentially interested in our project. In this group, we are discovering the needs of users, collect feedback on our ideas.

A similar community was created in Russian-speaking social networks at the beginning of the project. It turned out to be very active, children offer their ideas and suggestions for improving TeenUP. Thanks to this feedback, the original idea was clarified before launching the application.

We aim to become a global company and therefore plan to be present in most markets. Now we are working with English- and Russian-speaking audiences, and we will also cover Spanish-speaking countries a little bit later. So far, audiences from Ukraine and the USA engage in the application the most.

We have experience in the English-speaking market. Our team members have already launched successful projects for an American audience. We also see that openness and mutual assistance have become a social norm for adolescents from the United States and Britain. TeenUP just cultivates it and that’s why we grow.


TeenUP startup

Social network for clever people

We focus on children and teenagers from 10 to 20 years old. The core of our audience is 12–16 years old young people. TeenUP attracts those for whom it is crucial to study and become sought after professionals. We create convenient and safe peer-to-peer interaction space for them.

A vital part of the audience for us is teenagers who are looking for like-minded people and “kindred spirits” with similar interests. People with non-standard hobbies have difficulties with searching, and they are looking for those who can understand them, evaluate their achievements, and share knowledge.

Also, children who want to earn with their minds actively come to us. Anyone can do it at TeenUP — becoming a millionaire blogger is not obligatory. It is enough only to share the content that is in demand.

Educational videos about drawing, dancing and programming are the most viewed in TeenUP today. In the Q&A section, the topics from homework assignments in mathematics, physics, chemistry, English are the most popular.

In the feed, we move up the videos that were made specifically for our platform. We also have content re-uploaded from other sites, but we do not encourage such authors. We have a serious enough moderation to avoid bullying and inappropriate content. There is a technical support team that reviews posts and considers complaints.

Our very first users are the students of the BNTU College. They were very active in helping us test the service by providing feedback. We invited them to work on improving the platform further as full-time employees, and they happily agreed.

More than ten obscene videos have already been removed. We plan to automate moderation thus, we log the actions of live employees and use such data to train algorithms.


TeenUP startup


We are for the generation of our descendants to be better than us. Therefore, we develop conscious consumption: we give users a specific value, for which we offer to pay a fair price. We are monetizing the service on a freemium basis, despite the rareness of such a model among teen apps. We conducted audience polls and constantly heard: “We are very tired of advertising on the Internet and ready to pay for its absence.”

For the TeenUP team, freemium is the most ethical option. We do not sell our audience to anyone — as a result, they are not bombarded with annoying ads or any other offers.

In our ecosystem, talented authors can be supported by donations with local currency. It has a real cash equivalent that can be withdrawn to the parents’ card or the child’s card linked to the parents’ account.

Today we have 15,000 users, 2% of whom use a paid subscription. It costs $1.49 per month and makes it possible to withdraw earned donations to the card, highlight your profile in the general feed, and also gives the user 100 units of our local currency every month.

We plan to achieve 5% of paying users. Then, according to our calculations, the unit economy will be consistently positive. We have found some unusual ways to increase the number of premium users, but we do not want to reveal them yet.

Interestingly, there is almost the same proportion of buyers of PRO-accounts among the Russian-speaking and English-speaking users. That surprises us very much and destroys the stereotype about users from the CIS who are not ready to pay.

Teenagers under 18 have certain difficulties with money. They do not make money yet and cannot always manage it. TeenUP has an innovative solution to this problem that our team is implementing together with one of the partners. We will surprise the market, so I do not want to reveal details yet — we will show everything in the spring of 2021.


TeenUP startup


We have assembled a team of professionals — each participant has dozens of completed projects under their belt, and our competencies complement each other.

What I have under my belt — MBA, 10 years of experience in strategic consulting and work in IT, 13 years in business (owner of the accounting company «БизнесСтарт» (BusinessStart) ), a member of the Business Angels Association.

CTO is Denis Koloshko, who has 18 years of experience in IT. Denis is an experienced businessman, co-founder of an IT company that has been operating in the international market for about 10 years. Denis is also a certified cybersecurity specialist and one of the five professionals in Belarus who have an international CISSP certificate.

The manager responsible for product development, creation of the necessary processes, and selection of developers is Ksenia Popova. She is the co-founder of an IT company that has been operating for over 10 years. Ksenia’s professional background includes work with Wells Fargo, Vodafone, NHS.

One of the examples of Denis and Ksenia’s successful startup is eviFile. It is recognized as the #1 quality control tool for construction companies and corporations in England.

The Advisor is Viktor Statkevich. He helps us with tax and financial issues. Viktor has more than 14 years of experience in audit and consulting projects in the tax and financial IT sphere, extensive experience in “tax support” of large investment projects in Belarus with the participation of foreign capital.

I am 100% dedicated to the project. My partners still devote part of their time to their other businesses. Our development team is the employees of one of our co-founders. With the development of TeenUP, we will assemble an in-house development team.

We have all already covered our basic social needs, each of us is successful in our direction. But we want to go further and create a company on a global scale and, at the same time, have an environmentally friendly business with a traceable social focus.

We have children to whom we can give an expensive and high-quality education. But not all parents have the opportunity to invest analogous resources in their child. And my child is ready to share his knowledge for free because it has certain advantages for him. He can do it more productively on the special platform — such thoughts motivate us.


 TeenUP, a social network for smart teenagers


Among our direct competitors, we are following the development of Brainly, a homework sharing service (At the end of December 2020, it raised $80M in Round D — Startup Jedi). There are also a number of English-language services that crowdfund the projects launched by teenagers.

Our main indirect competitors are mainstream social networks: TikTok, Instagram, VK, and others. Our potential users spend a lot of time they could usefully spend on themselves there.

We are creating an improved version of social networks: we take the working mechanics of social communication and give it sense — this is our main competitive advantage. TeenUP brings together smart, motivated kids and teens to help develop their skills and earn on that.

Bloggers on large social networks have to hype to make money, otherwise, they won’t be able to be at the top. Therefore, our users do not want to post on TikTok, they are more interested in shooting videos for the target audience. One of the teenagers shot the video “Why I’m at TeenUP”. There he says that he makes videos on biology, physics, chemistry, but on Youtube, it is difficult to notice him in a huge stream of content, and in TeenUP it is easier to do it.


TeenUP startup


We started three months ago, and so far an audience keeps growing very good: there are enough content creators and consumers. The challenges we launch help us keep the balance. The most active is #яумею (#ican), in which we motivate children to talk about their skills and share knowledge.

We also launch ad-hoc challenges: on the New Year, we made #помогисанте (#helpsanta), in which you need to fulfill the wishes of other users and teach them what you know yourself. We plan to develop such activities further — they encourage the creation of content.

We now have enough original content to make “word of mouth” work. When something is interesting, one child tells five about it.

We also use all the classic channels for promoting mobile applications and actively optimize them, so the price of one installation drops every week. Since the launch of the advertising campaign, CAC has dropped by 60%, and today it is lower than the average for the services working with our audience. Perhaps because we attract innovators: they don’t have to be persuaded to try a new product for a long time.


Nearest plans

Now we are preparing to update our Feed, a rubricator will be added. We will also upgrade the section “Questions and Answers”, which will contain “questions of the day” on behalf of the administration of the application. For the best answer, we will charge the local currency.

We will develop chats and motivate users to communicate. Many children today are poor at communicating with other people, so we will set them up with those who are ready to support them.

In the coming months, we will make a redesign of the application — we already have mockups ready. Then we will implement an interesting solution that combines video and text. In six months, we want to come to the creation of teams that will work on specific projects: creative works, business projects, volunteer initiatives.

Also, in six months, we want to reach 1 million active users, 5% of whom will be PRO account owners.


Ideal investor

We have already invested about $120,000 in the project from our funds. This money helped develop an architecture resistant to high loads, applications, and attracted the first users — the main technical problems have already been solved.

We will direct the new round funds for marketing, and we will also actively attract an English-speaking audience. Investors with social media investment experience in the early stages can greatly help us. We plan to collect a round of $1M.

Recently TeenUP was selected for the new batch of the SBER 500 accelerator on the first try. We hope to complete it with a noticeable increase in revenue, competencies, and the right connections.


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