- Geneva, a group chat app that launched in 2021, has become popular with Gen Z women.
- The app is being used by creators and brands to built private and personal online communities.
- Geneva raised $22 million in funding from VCs like Coatue, Base Partners, Inspired Capital.
TheMoonMen. Saddie baddies. Snaxshot. These are names of a handful of “homes ” on the group chat app Geneva.
Over the past several months, influencers who built their following on platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter have set up homes on Geneva, which are similar to workspaces on Slack or servers on Discord, Geneva’s head of community Kim Johnson says. And brands like luxury jeweler Mejuri, Selena Gomez’s cosmetic line Rare Beauty, and period care company August have followed suit.
Several influencers that Insider spoke to said they’re using Geneva to build a new kind of online community, one not dictated by the follower counts that rule platforms like Instagram and YouTube but are rooted in conversations between people who share their interests. These influencers see their homes as virtual havens for users tired of the impersonal algorithms shaping online activity.
In fact, Geneva was named after the Geneva Conventions, the famous treaties negotiated after the atrocities of WWII that dictated humane treatment of people during wars. Those treaties were a unifying moment to “make the world a better place,” founder Justin Hauser told Insider, and the goal of the Geneva app is similar.
“Our mission is to build towards a better internet–one that helps support and foster people coming together in a safe place to have healthy conversation,” Hauser said.
While the company wouldn’t share it’s user numbers with Insider, it said that its user base has quadrupled since the start of 2022. Johnson said that Gen Z and millennial women are Geneva’s “sweet spot” although users of the app range in ethnicities, genders, and ages.
Driven by creators and Gen Z
Geneva was launched in 2021. While it’s Hauser’s first social media endeavor, he has co-founded a series of lifestyle brands over the years through a holding company called Life Capital such as infused sparkling water company Recess — which launched in 2017 and has raised $28 million, according to PitchBook.
Geneva, has already raised $22 million, according to Crunchbase, from firms like Coatue, G9 Ventures, Base Partner and Inspired Capital. (Geneva declined to confirm the amount it raised.)
The idea to launch this app had been brewing in Hauser’s mind for years, he said, after seeing digital communities on everything from climate activism to Gen Z voting awareness forming across the far corners of the internet.
What was missing, he said, was technology that could help them properly organize. The “dopamine-inducing tricks” of likes and follower counts on existing social media platforms weren’t serving the needs of these groups, he opined.
Geneva “sits at the nexus of what communities — driven by creators and Gen Z — are looking for,” VC Alexa von Tobel, a managing partner at Inspired Capital who participated in Geneva’s seed funding told Insider. She said that’s because the app has prioritized building spaces that are safe and give users ownership.
Many other players
If this mission and approach sound a bit familiar, that’s because there are plenty of competitors, some of them almost as old as the internet itself. Reddit was launched in 2005 during the Internet’s embryonic era. Discord has become one the most popular apps among Gen Z with over 150 million active monthly users, according to Quartz, as of July 2021.
Clubhouse’s audio-only community became a pandemic darling, too, but, as Insider previously reported, saw its popularly diminish in 2021 when the covid lockdown ended. Still, spinoffs of Clubhouse have been launched by Facebook and Twitter, too, with varying levels of success so far.
But Geneva’s spokespeople say that this app is different from all of these others.
“Clubhouse started as an elite invite-only service. This is the opposite of Geneva and how it was built,” said spokesperson Brooke Hammerling. “Inclusivity is at the forefront of a lot of both product and branding decisions, and is built in a way that flattens/does away with the traditional hierarchy that is present on most other platforms.”
Rooms upon rooms
When new users log onto Geneva, they can establish homes for themselves or join one of the existing homes on the app. Within each home, users can roam between five types of rooms. Chat rooms are for instant conversation. Forums are for announcements and longer posts that spur discussion threads. Broadcast rooms are for live streaming videos to many viewers, while video rooms do face-to-face chats with up to 16 people. Audio rooms exist, too, for voice-only chats amongst an unlimited number of guests. Homes can have an endless number of rooms, the company says.
Priscilla O. Agyeman, a content creator who started saddie baddies on Instagram in 2019, described her following as an online community for women of color that focuses on destigmatizing mental health. She said saddie baddies now has 16,000 followers across all its social media accounts including Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook.
In the spring of 2021, Agyeman created a saddie baddies home on Geneva which now has more than 1,000 members. Once a month she organizes a call for members in the audio room.
“It feels like a breath of fresh air that I don’t have to perform. I can literally show up and be myself, face mask on, but still talk to the people that are part of this community,” she said. “I know that Clubhouse started to create that space but Geneva just feels like a way safer space and more dynamic.”