Santa Monica-based Trill Project, founded by four high-schoolers who want to make social media safer, received on Aug. 15 a total $550,000 in a seed round led by Founders Bootcamp.
Founders Bootcamp is a venture studio focused solely on high school entrepreneurs and run out of the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Cross-Campus space.
Each of the five participating startups was granted a $50,000 seed at the conclusion of the 12-week program, while an additional $500,000 was awarded to Trill for its standout performance.
Trill Project grew out of the Bootcamp’s eight-week accelerator program and aims to create a social media network where anonymous users and moderators can express themselves. Geared toward LGBTQ+ teens, the Trill Project began as a safe space for transgender and queer teens, who often face bullying online due to openly expressing their identities.
The platform’s founders ensure the space remains anonymous by assigning random usernames based on colors users pick when they enter the iOS app. Additionally, the use of a Tor framework, machine learning algorithms and 50 assigned moderators (who are also users) screen the posts to weed out safety violations.
“After discovering that approximately one half of transgender teens attempt suicide, five high school girls set off to create a safe and supportive virtual community for teens,” reads Trill’s website. Though the site focuses on marginalized groups, adults and straight users are also welcomed, per its website.
The Trill app is free but co-founder Ari Sokolov told TechCrunch the company plans to leverage its ad space and algorithms for profit, as well as sell sponsorships in the future. To date, the company reports its app has over 10,000 downloads since its launch on the Apple App Store in June 2018.
“We created the world’s first VC fund targeting teenage founders because there are so many incredible teenage minds around the world who have the chops but not necessarily the resources to bring their vision to market and Founder’s Bootcamp has developed a new model in education to change that paradigm,” said founder Richard Dahan. “We are discovering and empowering the next group of audacious, rule-shattering, world-changing entrepreneurs; teens who are purpose built to inspire epic growth, drive radical new ideas and who are prepared to solve some really big global problems.”
Tech reporter Samson Amore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (323) 556-8335. Follow him on Twitter @samsonamore.