Presented in partnership with Trill Project.
There is no doubt that social media, and the ability to be anonymous, is one of the biggest evils of the internet.
Because of the safety of anonymity, cyberbullying has become a common experience of many high school students, sometimes ending in tragedy.
However, Georgia Messinger and Ari Sokolov thought that in the right environment, anonymity could be used to create something beautiful. They came together to create a social media platform that is safe and anonymous for all to discuss everything and anything.
With that goal in mind, Trill Project was born.
“Growing up with social media, [this negativity] is something we experienced firsthand,” said Messinger, co-founder, and COO of Trill Project. “We really just saw potential to turn digital spaces into something that could be more supportive. Our users and Trill Project remind us that is something that can be possible if given the right tools and the right space.”
Trill Project is a completely anonymous social media platform that allows users to connect with each other by following feeds based on specific topics. Topics range from relationships to music to mental health.
The Trill Project recognizes that mental health is hard to talk about and provides a safe platform for people to discuss their well-being without being judged or scrutinized.
All a person needs is a username to create an account. Account names are automatically generated and based on a color that the user picks when they register their account. Posts on Trill are managed by a team of over 50 moderators to prevent bullying and ensure that content is safe for all users.
If a Trill user is struggling with mental health, moderators are trained to provide resources such as the Suicide hotline or RAINN.
Many moderators also work with Teen Line, a teen-to-teen hotline designed to help young people connect with support services.
One thing that the moderators of Trill Project have been working on is ensuring that all voices are respected on the app. With the currently charged political climate, often the rhetoric of the President is harmful to many people who identify as minorities.
“Something that we really strive to do is make sure that we’re allowing all voices to be heard as long as it’s not attacking somebody else,” Messinger said. “Of course that always comes a final line and something that we’re always looking to improve upon.”
Messinger and Sokolov are not only entrepreneurs but currently freshmen at esteemed universities.
Sokolov is attending the University of Southern California while Messinger is spending her first year away from home 3,000 miles away at Harvard. They’ve found that working on Trill Project is instrumental in helping manage their first year away from home.
“Actually Trill Project has really helped us with [first-year college struggles].” Messinger said.”It was something that really grounded us to Los Angeles and to our families and to each other. We even use the app. So we would go on it, invent ourselves [on the app] and talk to other students at colleges that are experiencing the same things.”
Because of the anonymity of the app, users wouldn’t know whether they’re talking to another college student or one of the founders. Interactions can be between two individuals, without the prejudice placed on the person by societal pressures.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy managing studies and business plans.
“It’s a lot and requires loads of caffeine,” said Sokolov, CEO of Trill Project. “When I was 13, I founded an iOS and web app development company whose apps were recognized by SXSW, the U.S. Congress, and Apple. So, I’ve been balancing school and work for the past five years… In college and in high school, I think I have had less social fun than my peers, but I’m more fulfilled by creating products that I know will have an impact on others’ lives.”
Messinger and Sokolov got started early in computer science and app development, giving them the tools they needed to start changing the world. Sokolov’s path to entrepreneurship was a bit serendipitous, and thanks to a fateful turn into the wrong classroom.
“When I was eight years old, I was supposed to be in a photography class during a summer program. But, I accidentally went to the wrong classroom. It ended up being a computer science class. I loved the class, and the teacher allowed me to stay. I made a drawing using the coding language Processing in the class. After, I used that same knowledge to create a digital birthday card for my mom.”
Fate continued to play an important role for the two developers. Despite living only blocks away from each other, it took going to North Carolina, over 2,500 miles away, to come together.
“Ari and I met at the National Center for Women in Information Technology. We were winning their national award in North Carolina…It took us going to North Carolina for this [young women who code] award ceremony to meet one another. I really think it was like a weird chance of fate that brought us together.”
That fateful meeting created a friendship that bloomed into Trill Project.
This all-star pairing of young talent helped Trill go from concept to reality at breakneck speed. Within the first month, the app was in beta. In under six months, it was one of the top apps in the Apple App Store.
“We’ve been very lucky to have been featured by Apple on its App Store and appreciate that Apple shares many of our same values [like] user privacy, diversity, and acceptance,” Sokolov said.
Despite the team’s youth, Messinger is confident with the guidance that she’s getting when it comes to managing the business. While there are plans to monetize the business moving forward, Messinger and Sokolov are taking the opportunity to be very conscious of who they choose to partner with, and have taken no money outside of the initial investment it took to get Trill Project off the ground.
They aim to partner with services that will bring value to the users of the platform. That selectivity takes courage, but it’s something Messinger takes in stride.
“Sometimes you’re still swimming with sharks,” Messinger said. “But the good thing is, there’s lots of life rafts around, people who are helping you navigate the waters. That’s another reason I think it’s so great to stay in school because all of my professors and mentors at school are allies and they just want their students to succeed without ulterior motives.”
Remarkably, that is a near perfect summation of what Trill is, people using their anonymity to ask for help, and help others.
Because of it, we all succeed, no questions asked.