A Social Media Alternative For Vietnam’s Gen Z


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It can sometimes be difficult to grasp the passage of time, its length or abruptness, especially when it comes to our interactions with the digital world. Here we are in 2023, where a platform like Facebook has become so ubiquitous and powerful that it is almost considered a public utility or even a public menace.

However, let’s consider the dates. The company was founded in 2004 and made fully available to the public in 2006. Only 17 years have passed since the world gained access to this new, fascinating, and addictive tool. For those who were already adults in 2006, it is dizzying to witness how the social media revolution has rapidly taken over society. But what about those who were born in 2006?

Increasingly, it seems that the future does not resemble Facebook. Recent data from a Pew Research Center survey showed that the percentage of 13- to 17-year-olds using Facebook dropped from 71% in 2015 to 32% in 2022. Facebook now takes a backseat to platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and the new dominant force, YouTube, which is now used by 95% of teenagers.

Leka is a new social networking app targeting Gen Z that was developed in Vietnam by Skapa.ai, a Singapore-incorporated company that was cofounded in 2020 by Denise Sandquist and Oscar Xing Luo. Although the pair are both from Sweden, they moved to Vietnam in 2018, and launched another app called Fika in 2020, which has since grown to become Vietnam’s most downloaded dating platform. Skapa’s investors include the likes of VNV Global and Goodwater; and unicorn founders from King (Candycrush), VNG Corporation, Voi, and Divvy Homes.

Leka has been in development and beta testing for several months and is set to officially go live in the second half of 2023. The central premise of Leka is to allow users to be more authentic in their interactions. Authenticity, as any marketer will tell you, is the key to engaging Gen Z consumers. Leka achieves this by segmenting users’ connections into groups called “squads.”

According to the company, squads organize users into interest groups, fostering close-knit communities where individuals can share and engage without fear of judgment. Imagine having a friendship squad, a co-worker squad, a squad for shared hobbies or interests, and so on. The idea is that you can be your true self in each specific context. You could call it the George Costanza theory of not letting different worlds collide. Although it’s unlikely that the target users would necessarily understand a Seinfeld reference.

According to Leka’s cofounder and CEO Denise Sandquist: “One of the key differentiators of Leka is its initial invite-only strategy, which promotes security, inclusivity and organic growth. By allowing users to invite others whom they believe should be members of their squads, Leka ensures a more intimate and engaging experience.”

The company heavily emphasizes providing authentic connections and helping users overcome mental health issues as its reason for existence. “Social media platforms mainly focus on connecting people on the surface, but not on making them feel like they belong,” Sandquist said. “Most users’ behaviors are passive consumption of social media; if you are more of an observer, you don’t really connect on a deeper level.”

There is no doubt that the generation of kids growing up with nothing but an online life has been subjected to forces that those of us grounded in an earlier, simpler time could never truly understand. Whether more social media is the antidote to loneliness and dislocation caused by a life primarily lived through social media is an open question.

The business model for the app is to introduce in-app commerce, which the company believes will be a US$31 billion market in Vietnam alone by 2028. This is where the concept of squads makes perfect sense, as users of the app provide a means for advertisers to better micro-target users.

The model that says you need to attract the maximum number of users, regardless of the cost, and then move to an IPO or buy-out as quickly as possible still applies. When we spoke, Sandquist was in Silicon Valley on a tour to raise seed funding. This perfectly illustrates the dual track such ventures must run on. Investors want cold, hard numbers on how a project will be monetized and how it will generate revenue from users, but those users also need to feel the platform is first and foremost serving their needs.

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Nicole Lambert
Nicole Lambert
Nicole Lamber is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes about arts, entertainment, lifestyle, and home news. Nicole has been a journalist for years and loves to write about what's going on in the world.

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