OK, we've got a problem: we need to figure out what "young people" think is "cool" so that we can "be like Snapchat." But we're not Snapchat yet, so we can't afford to organize an actual focus group. Solution: get high school kids to work for free and call it a "teen advisory board." By God, we've done it again.
Squawk is really no worse than the idea it's copying—take the fleeting fun of Snapchat, and toss the fucking kitchen sink at it: stickers, GIFs, sounds, customizable backgrounds, just everything. It probably is a hell of a lot of fun if you're the right age. But Squawk's got a secret weapon: eager high school students and their overbearing, silicon fame-hungry parents. Co-founder Chloe Bregman says she's already got a group "between the ages of 15 and 19" working for her, and the app's creators are soliciting more help from kiddos enrolled at their high school alma mater—21st century school spirit:
What is it like to be part of a startup? Join a Lick-Wilmerding alumni’s startup teen advisory group and find out! We are looking for teenagers with an interest in communication, marketing, design and /or development to be a part of our teen product advisory group.
This is, of course, brilliant, because Snapchat is a giant largely because of its inexplicable youth appeal. Ditto Instagram. Not so much Facebook these days, hair-tearing pundits say. So if you can predict which service will clench the ADHDing heads of a new generation, you'll probably become a startup millionaire, sure. But only the kids know. The kids have the answers. The children are the secret.
The kids know you need them. The app knows the teens know they know the app knows. Read this quote a Squawk co-founder provided The Verge and behold the trendfluential ouroboros:
The next test is whether an app made with the help of teens, for teens, is really what teens even want. "In theory, it’s uncool this is an app made with help from teenagers," she says. "Your article could actually make us uncool. That’s the paradox of it."
A paradox indeed—but they're undaunted, and ready to organize teen "Squawkups" to mine young minds for monetizable insight. But why, with high school kids more swamped with extracurriculars and stronger tremors of young adulthood than ever, would it ever be a good idea for them to add unpaid market research to the docket? Squawk thinks so:
What do you get out of the group?
Learn and be a part of the startup experience. - Take part in our ‘squawkup’s - a monthly meeting to discuss all things Squawk. You will gain hands on experiental learning about market research, venture funding, advertising, and of course, product development. - Try something that no one else has access to.
Karate, pool parties, market research—kids love it. But what about some sort of compensation for the children potentially making millionaires of a couple adults?
Will you get paid for this? No, although at some point in the future, we will consider bringing students on in a more official internship capacity.
Not even a little child-size equity. I asked Bregman if the internships mentioned in the flyer (below) are paid. No comment so far.