Tiffany Zhong is a serial entrepreneur at just 22. Zebra IQ is her sixth business endeavor that applies all the skills she gained from her first five adventures: a magazine, an education tech startup, a social app, a product finder and a full-time investor. Her mission is to help brands better understand Generation Z by offering them an opportunity to get real-time feedback from Gen Z consumers. She named her latest company, Zebra IQ. Why? Because Zebras can’t be tamed, just like Gen Z, and they may appear the same from a distance but if you look really closely, every Zebra has unique stripes. Read on to learn about Tiffany’s unique stripes and why Zebra IQ, which just launched, will become a critical vehicle for brands to optimize their marketing and product development efforts.
Tell us a little bit about your story.
I recently turned 22! At a very young age, I knew I wanted to build products that can make a difference somehow.
At 15, I started a magazine that focused on music, fashion, and tech. It was super fun and before I knew it, I was being handed backstage passes to VIP events and interviewed people like Mike Posner, Ellie Goulding, etc.
At 16, I worked on an education tech startup that developed a better note-taking app which would allow students to draw on their iPad and type out notes on their computer in the same document, which was a huge problem for me in biology class! About this same time, I started using Twitter because I was curious and wanted to get my questions answered from founders and investors. I was able to meet a lot of incredible folks who were willing to help guide me. On Twitter, I met Ryan and Erik from Product Hunt and joined their team my senior year in high school. But before I did that, I worked on a number of social apps, such as an app that let you send disappearing images and videos to groups of friends. It was Snapchat groups before snap groups was created.
After I graduated from high school, I was lucky enough to be offered a job at a $300mm VC firm in Silicon Valley started by early investors in Instagram, Twitter, Tinder, Stitch Fix, etc. I joined as a full-time investor focused on early-stage consumer startups and worked there for a year and a half. Then, I decided I wanted to try out college so went to UC Berkeley for a year. During that year, I started thinking about what I wanted to work on next. What led me to starting Zebra IQ was that many top VCs and founders started asking me whether they should invest in certain consumer companies and would bounce app ideas that focused on youth off of me. So I thought, why not create a company that can do that at scale, hence Zebra IQ.
What are you working on right now that you think is interesting or innovative?
I’ve been working on Zebra IQ for the last year and a half. Zebra IQ helps companies collaborate with Gen Z for brutally honest feedback on product, branding, and marketing decisions.
Key attributes that I focused on building into the product include:
- A fun mobile app for Gen Z to answer questions and earn our internal currency (Zoo coins) which they can then cash out into bitcoin, money, or other cool products
- A self-service enterprise dashboard where brands can send questions and view real-time results from Gen Zs
- A consulting service to help Gen Z proof the questions that brands are asking help them get more feedback by decoding the language between them and the respondents.
“Today it is really critical for brands to be talking with their consumers constantly, not just doing one-off research projects. Consumers want to to feel heard and valued at every interaction and that their feedback is being incorporated along the way.”
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your generation?
Gen Z is really smart and attuned to what's an ad, what's low-quality content, etc so with the ability to vet quickly, we scroll through Instagram, Snapchat, and other apps at rapid speed since most content sucks, frankly. But when we talk about attention span, Gen Z can pay attention if we really want to. A good example is Netflix binging for hours -- we wouldn't be able to do that if we had a short attention span right?
Another thing is that Gen Z is the Side Hustle generation. We've figured out how to make money online to be able to buy the things we want to buy, travel to the places we want to visit and eat at the restaurants we want to eat at. It can be generating revenue streams through drop-shipping products from China, creating meme pages, and more.
Gen Z cares about authentic content most importantly.
What's the biggest mistake that brands are making in their marketing right now? What can they do differently to better connect with youth?
It’s important for brands to really understand their consumers by constantly working with them to get their input and collaborate with them to stay on top of culture and become (or stay) relevant. Applying the feedback to product development and marketing is game-changing.
● Test out social media content
● Test out products - physical and digital
● Any feedback you want particularly on product, marketing, branding
Are there any brands or campaigns that you admire?
Taco Bell is doing a solid job with their fun social media content and their authentic influencers (focusing on working with influencers who have talked about Taco Bell on social media already).
- Favorite place to vacation? I absolutely love Barcelona.
- If you were a superhero, what would your special skill be? I'd say being able to teleport.
- Name something that most people don't know about you. I played chess competitively as a kid.
- What's the best thing you've read/listened to/watched recently?
- TV Shows: Bodyguard, Succession, Billions, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Grown-ish, The Good Place.
- Listened to: Yassine Saidi of PUMA on Business of HYPE, Ann Miura-Ko on The Tim Ferriss Show, Keith Rabois on Venture Stories.
- Read: Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, Crazy Rich Asians series