Four high-schoolers who founded Santa Monica-based Trill Project in a bid to make social media safer got $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.

Trill was one of five startups that was granted a $50,000 seed investment at the Aug. 15 conclusion of the 12-week program. Trill got an additional $500,000 as the standout participant overall.

Trill Project grew out of the Bootcamp’s eight-week accelerator program. It aims to create a social media network where anonymous users and moderators can express themselves. The program is geared toward LGBTQ+ teens, and began as a “safe space” for those likely to 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. 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.

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. The company reports its app has over 10,000 downloads since its launch on the Apple App Store in June 2018.

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