German teenagers went crazy for this compliment app and now VCs are supporting their next phase

Meanwhile, somehow (kinda!?) a new startup has surfaced with the idea that another app will help this dumpster fire of social interactions — but let’s hear them before we jump to conclusions.

Slay describes itself as a “positive social media network for teenagers”. The reason we’re talking about it today is that after launching last year, it started growing like weeds in Germany, where it reached #1 in the German iOS App Store four days after launch. It now claims to have more than 250,000 registered users and claims it is gaining traction in other countries including the UK where it recently launched.

So what’s the attraction here? When users open the app, users are presented with 12 questions that the user can only answer by selecting another user (from their school, class, or peer group) to compliment (or “kill)” another user anonymously “). For example, the app can ask a user, “Who inspires me to be my best?”. They can then choose from four other users at their school to pay this “slay” to. They can then see compliments from other children if they answer the 12 questions when they log in. The identities of those who sent the compliment remain hidden.

Photo credit: Slay

This reminds me of the BeReal mechanic where you can’t see other people’s BeReal photos unless you upload your own.

And Slay isn’t dissimilar to Gas, either, the messaging platform popular with teenagers for its positive influence on social media, which was acquired by Discord yesterday. Anonymous surveys are designed to increase user confidence in Gas.

The other reason Slay has appeared on TechCrunch’s radar is that its growth has caught the interest of VCs.

It has now raised a $2.63 million (EUR 2.5 million) pre-seed round of funding led by Accel. 20VC was also there. Other investors include Supercell co-founder and CEO Ilkka Paananen, Behance founder Scott Belsky, soccer star Mario Götze, Kevin Weil (Scribble Ventures) and musician Alex Pall (The Chainsmokers).

Slay says it aims to reset teens’ relationship with social apps by moving things away from the negative feelings on social platforms by normalizing the giving of compliments. It also says it’s built with built-in security, content moderation, and youthful mental wellbeing. We will see …

Diving into the app, one can see that it was built very simply as a “compliment app”. Whether that will be enough to keep users coming back is hard to say. Teenage behavior is hard to guess. For example, getting zero can also send a “signal”.

Suffice it to say that Slay claims it will “never sell or share personal information with any third party.” Given the history of social apps, let’s see how long this lasts.

There’s also no direct messaging feature, although users can add links to social media profiles so they can eventually message each other outside of the app.

Adults are reportedly not allowed to “join” schools, and it’s asking for an approximate location to suggest nearby schools. All questions and interactions are asked by the app, not by the users themselves.

Slay was founded in 2022 by a team of three 23-year-old Berlin co-founders: Fabian Kamberi, Jannis Ringwald and Stefan Quernhorst. The idea came from Kamberi, who has been creating consumer apps since he was young and was inspired by the experiences of his siblings 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 see Slay as just an anonymous survey app in the future [referring to the aforementioned Gas]but as a meeting point for teenagers to rediscover social interactions in different game modes.”

“Our app is similar to Gas and its acquisition is a great testament to what we’ve built and what the future holds in our space. However, apps that only rely on anonymous questions and answers, for example, pose a high risk of cyberbullying, which we prevent through our strict content moderation and specially developed 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’ve received thousands of responses from users thanking us for making them feel valued in an era of fast-moving, negative interactions on social media,” he told me.

Photo credit: Slay

He said the startup could well deliver new features that create more engagement, but at the same time could bring a risk of negativity: “That’s why we focus a lot on the individual experience that each user has, with the aim of making it so positive as possible.” He said the startup’s mission is “content security.”

So what is Slay’s business model? How will it make money? Kamberi says it will likely be premium features, services or tools that users will pay for: “We are currently building several exclusive paid game modes as well as add-ons that we will release through feedback cycles with users and backed by data will.”

Slay is available in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Great Britain.

Julien Bek, Director at Accel, added in a statement: “We are extremely impressed with the SLAY app, both by its immediate popularity with teenagers and by the team’s positive aim to improve teen mental health in the digital world to enhance. The SLAY team has already seen almost half of their active users use it every school day.”