Teen Controlled Economies
A Glimpse into a Shadow World
This essay is meant to enlighten readers on teen behavior and their relationships between entertainment, communication, and commerce hidden in social media and messenger/chat platforms. Possibly the ultimate environment for a thriving cryptocurrency after an ICO.
I’m an entrepreneur, and I have been since I was a kid. Every week, as a twelve year old paperboy, I bought a four-pack of bubblicious and a box of Ticonderoga Dixon #2 pencils for $1 each. We chewed mad gum and had pencil fights for money in my middle school. So by modularizing and reselling each pencil for $.10 and a piece of gum for $.25, I made profits that were a few hundred percent at times.
My hustles were the means by how I made cash as a kid. Through them I purchased my first BMX bike, and the candy and gear I liked. I traded lunch items, pogs, baseball cards, and clothes for random teen-stuff. In fact, the BMX bike deal included cash and another bike I owned, as trade. My entrepreneur activities allowed me to take financial pressure off of my single mother too.
When I turned fifteen, I worked at McDonalds but still kept various side hustles and businesses in orbit. For example, I made copies of DJ Clue mixtapes and sold or traded them around school. As I got older, I kept up my habit of earning through a myriad of income sources and trades. Even throughout my career as an accountant, I was a hustler. I worked for a big CPA firm during the day and built a small respectable consulting practice on the side. I only ended my side-hustling ways to focus on my ultimate entrepreneur journey; my upstart technology company and product called ZEN.
ZEN is a closely related mix between Kik Messenger, and the now defunct video sharing app Vine. Anyone can share short-form videos, and attract and engage an audience on ZEN. New connections take place on the channels where user videos are viewed via our public group chats. Our users make use of our public group chats to find new friends and organize editing groups they call “squads,” creating complex globally distributed groups tied together by common fan-based interests. There’s nearly 30,000 teenage video editors on ZEN skilled at remixing popular fan content. Remixing sports and anime videos are prime examples of the content they edit and use on ZEN to attract fellow fans.
What makes us different though, besides being the first to integrate social video with public group chats, is how we share our ad revenue with our content creators. The way that we serve ads and share revenue, creates insights and unique chat-based trading behavior for ZEN. Behavior that evolves from norms we’ve identified in teen controlled social media and messenger app shadow markets. The fact is these kids are savvy at creating value, trading by exchanging money and bartering with digital services and products such as likes, comments, video reposts, memes, digital files, mentions, accounts, and followers. Yet, no exchange exists where they can trade with each other much better than the makeshift marketplaces of the cafeteria and hallways in my middle school, where I peddled pencils and gum.
The future is under our noses: Teens are digital natives & savvy traders
Having access to these teen group chats immediately reveals deeper layers of communication, and chat organization, existing far beyond adult consciousness. The slang, acronym, and emoji language used clearly connects the kids across socioeconomic classes and geographic location. Lessons passed from parent to child move through the shadow market via the teens with home training in commerce from sole proprietor parents, and they’re mimicked by their quick-witted peers. Following a year of covert shadow market plying with assorted personality types, I found my own negotiating skill enhanced by the amount of wheeling and dealing I had to conduct to get ZEN downloaded.
These kids desperately need a place to move nearly anything they can create value around. My co-founder Frank and I have been thinking a lot about how we can do that. Drawing on my teen hustling days, I often ask myself ‘where would I find my tribe, and what would we do after we find each other?’ The answer is that we’d have a place to escape, meet interesting people, unabashedly express ourselves, be noticed, and thrive.
“One way to unlock a huge market is to find a hidden ‘shadow market’ existing in a corner of the economy.”
We’re building our own economy with our users!
Here’s where ZEN’s insights are being applied. In our next essay my cofounder, we’ll give more detail about the peer-to-peer exchange we’re building, and the upcoming initial coin issuance (ICO) of our own ZENCoin on the Ethereum blockchain. There’s a chance that ZENCoins will be the only mainstream scaleable currency offering. This is because the market is in the midst of a frenzy of issuances of cryptocurrencies by esoteric and specific use cases tied to blockchain itself. ZEN has the rare opportunity to enable the many types of value exchanges between teens through ZENCoins, granting light to their shadow markets.
You can download and try ZEN here. So stay tuned for more on teen shadow markets and ZENCoins, and please share this article and follow me for exclusives around ZEN.