I'm a Gen Z founder & I help brands understand Gen Z at my startup, Zebra IQ – Tiffany ZhongFeatured

I’m Tiffany Zhong, CEO of Zebra IQ – where brands can go for brutally honest youth feedback (ages 13-35). I started my tech career at 16 building a network of VCs and other people in tech using Twitter and providing insights to them about Gen Z. I then worked at Product Hunt during my senior year of high school. Right after high school, I joined a $300mm VC firm investing in early stage consumer tech companies. Then I started Zebra IQ a few years later.Ask me anything about how to build a community of youth, starting a company early in your career, fundraising or investing, or something else!
Thanks so much for joining us, Tiffany!As a reminder this is part of our ongoing series with experts in the community.
I would love to hear your take on authenticity. How does a company maximize revenue per user and keep the focus on user needs? I've worked at a few startups now that seem to lose sight of their user when pursuing more $. Authenticity is something Gen Z (and younger generations) care about deeply and will shy away from a company when they don't see it.
+1 to this! I'm curious what communicates authenticity to Gen Z these days—what matters to them most?
It's hard to bucket Gen Z into overarching values. People who grow up in a certain town may believe in X value, people who grow up in a certain type of income level may believe in Y.That's the tricky part about trying to appeal to every Gen Z in America. You can't. You have to segment them into specific cohorts and personas.
I don't think revenue and having an authentic brand is mutually exclusive. In fact, it's the reverse. To have an authentic brand, you have to really deeply understand your audience and spend time with them to know what kind of corporate values makes sense for your brand. Authenticity isn't just following whatever social good trends are happening right now. Authenticity means being true to your brand. And value-alignment meansGood example of a company being inauthentic:Pepsi and their "Black Lives Matter" campaign with Kendall Jenner. Super tone-deaf ad. Many complained that this ad trivialized all the ongoing protests against police. It wasn't on-brand with Pepsi, and it definitely wasn't on-brand with Kendall Jenner.Good example of a company being authentic:Everlane touting transparency as their core value from day 0 and now they're famous for that.Even Chick-fil-A and their COO publicly rejecting the concept of same-sex marriage. This may not align with many people in America's values, but then again, it still aligns with a big chunk of America as well, and it's authentic to their company.
What do you think are the most interesting Gen Z trends when it comes to what they expect as employees and as consumers? There are studies that show both Gen Z and Millennials wanting more meaningful work and for brands the buy to take social stands, but I'm curious if this plays out in real life, and how.
Haha this is a big question that would take me hours to answer and would also change monthly!I'll say that a big difference between Gen Z and Millennials is that Gen Z has grown up very entrepreneurial and takes matters into their own hands, whether it's people starting movements, people starting side hustles on social media, and more. There's an endless amount of money-making opportunities on the internet and mobile so we don't have to succumb to the traditional career paths if we don't want to. And that's something many companies need to be aware of and start adapting to.
Great topic! At my company, we have been thinking about how to appeal to GenZs. We even tried to hire a few GenZ interns to help us better adjust our social media presence. The goal wasn't so much to appeal to GenZs, but rather to design the product from the getgo to be youthful, and We have had a few challenges:How to balance creating value in the 10-second world? Every time we posted content, if it took more than 10 seconds, our interns told us that it's borning... not worth paying attention ... We believe in creating value for our audience and that will convert them to users. But, we found it very hard to do that in the world that everything should be 10 seconds. How do we balance appealing to GenZ and older audience? Our audience is mostly people between 25 to 45, but we wanted to make sure we appeal to a younger audience and build our product in a way that works for the younger audience, without sacrificing the core current users. Are we stretching ourselves too thin?
> How to balance creating value in the 10-second world? Every time we posted content, if it took more than 10 seconds, our interns told us that it's borning... not worth paying attention ... We believe in creating value for our audience and that will convert them to users. But, we found it very hard to do that in the world that everything should be 10 seconds.It seems to me like what you think is valuable is different than what Gen Z thinks is valuable. I'd go back to the drawing board and ideate and co-create these videos and marketing campaigns with the Gen Zs themselves. Get them involved. Get their feedback.It's not that Gen Z has a short attention span -- we're able to watch Netflix for hours on end, right? The content just has to be interesting or helpful to us in some way.
Thank you! Getting them involved in the process makes a lot of sense. Thank you!
I'm curious as to what methods you are implementing [surveys, user interviews, etc] to collect insights from Gen Z users and send these over to companies. Additionally, I was wondering how you consider diversity and inclusion in these insights and how that is communicated to brands. Are there any tangible metrics that you provide companies to show that their products are boding well with multiple demographics or if there are ways that they can improve their outreach?
We do mobile-driven qualitative and quantitative insights studies. We have our own mobile app with a proprietary audience of Gen Zs and Millennials across the country. Companies can get feedback in the form of video, audio, multiple choice, free form text, and more.If a company is interested in having a broad range of responses, we can make sure that we cover different diversity points (race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, upbringing, interests, etc). We can get a very specific cohort and audience.
I was just reading this article about how influencer culture has peaked. Curious to hear what you think about that and whether Gen Z will fall out of love with IG and other similar platforms.
Everyone's a content creator so everyone's an influencer to a certain extent :PHas influencer culture peaked? No, Gen Z still follows all of these influencers on social media. Take a look at Emma Chamberlain for example. She has an aesthetic/brand of being very relatable and not trying very hard.Not sure if Gen Z will fall out of love with IG but there are indeed lots of new social platforms these days and I think for the generation after Gen Z, it's going to be a new one - it's not going to be Snap, FB, IG, Twitter, TikTok.
How entrepreneurial do you find Gen Z to be compared to Millennials? In what ways do they differ in degree or substance when it comes to entrepreneurial aspirations? I'm developing a digital media platform with expert-led courses for women starting businesses and plan to focus on the 22-35 y/o cohort as our initial demographic, but curious how relevant this content would be to younger women—especially as I start developing our long-term vision and ways we can scale.
Very! Gen Z grows up realizing that everything is accessible and possible from a 5 inch black box. More here in an earlier response:
I love the idea behind Zebra IQ and curious to know how you track brands product development with the feedback that is generated from the insights and what (if any) the follow up stages are?
Thank you! We work with companies either a la carte or subscription – subscription being the smarter option if you don't want to become irrelevant as insights isn't something you do once and you're done with it, but something you need to do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.We also have specific partners that offer social media analytics / brand tracking tools and pre-and post campaign analysis with accurate measurements on brand lift and such.
What is the new lingo that is safe for school - but still cool - for Gen Z? I make EdTech software for 10-18 year olds. Thanks!
What age range do you use to define Gen Z? And do you think there will be a drastic difference between the spending habits of current university students (18-22) and the younger half of Gen Z (I assume 12-17yo)? Love to hear your thoughts on why/why not. Cheers.
how do you gather feedback from the youth? is it visual in nature? would love to learn what tools you use
Would be great to hear your take on Gen Z influencers. More specifically, what's the best way to discover and identify influencers that are best fit for a product? How would you distinguish influencers that are right (for a product and brand) vs everyone else? What are the best ways to attract influencers to an early-stage product (apart from providing them with an actual product? Thanks much.