Use the internet like you’re part of Gen Z. That means both learning TikTok dances and valuing customization and personalization over a false sense of privacy.
This week on Business Casual, we’re talking about data—how our data is gathered online, where it gets bought and sold, and why we might be entitled to some of the money it makes Big Tech. The conversation started with a teardown of former 2020 hopeful Andrew Yang’s proposed data dividend project.
On today’s episode, we’re asking some important follow-up questions: Does the next generation of tech users even care about their data, where it’s used, and whether they get paid for it?
The short answer is no—because 1) the activist generation has larger concerns than getting a dividend from Big Tech and 2) “People tend to not care about data privacy until they are personally affected.” That’s according to our guest today, Tiffany Zhong, the cofounder and CEO of Zebra IQ and the young entrepreneur once dubbed the Mary Meeker of Gen Z.
Many in Gen Z think this way: The value of the content they get from Big Tech and social platforms is greater than the value of their data—some in Gen Z feel that they’re getting the good end of the bargain. But does that give Big Tech free reign over their data?
This is a nuanced conversation about young people and their relationships with data privacy. Check it out now.
7.20.20 Morning Brew Tiffany Zhong
Kinsey Grant, Morning Brew business editor and podcast host [00:00:07] Hey, everybody, and welcome to Business Casual, the podcast from Morning Brew, answering your biggest questions in business. I'm your host and Brew business editor, Kinsey Grant. And now, let's get into it. [sound of a ding]
Kinsey [00:00:19] Whether you pronounce it data or data, you know that it matters. The personal details that make you who you are and lift the curtain on the ways that you use the internet are all but invaluable to the big tech companies that make our lives so frictionless. But those personal details are also a huge part of why big tech has become what it is today—an unstoppable force for profit making. And it's not Mark Zuckerberg's can-do attitude that earned Facebook $71 billion in profit last year. It's mostly advertising. And when I say mostly, I mean mostly. Ad revenue accounted for 98.5% of Facebook's 2019 sales.
Kinsey [00:00:57] And those ad spots are made all the more attractive to marketers because they can be targeted down to basically what you ate for breakfast that morning, for all intents and purposes. That's begged the huge question—one we took on in our last episode with former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Should we, as the people whose data makes big tech so rich, get a share of the wealth? According to Yang, we should. And that's why he's proposed a Data Dividend Project—to get tech users a portion, albeit a very small portion, of the profit that tech makes off of them.
Kinsey [00:01:28] But I gotta say, to me, it kind of sounds like a long shot. Big tech already skirts their taxes to the tune of billions of dollars a year—and legally, for the most part. So I have reservations about the likelihood of these CEOs actually greenlighting checks to every user. And even more importantly, I have to wonder if it's even a concern for anyone under the age of 35 or so.
Kinsey [00:01:50] We grew up online. We entered into the bargain of sharing our data for access to these tech platforms, essentially out of the womb. So to figure out the next generation's view on data and data privacy and maybe even a data dividend, I am bringing in the expert once called the "Mary Meeker of Gen Z," Tiffany Zhong, Gen Z Whisperer. Welcome to Business Casual.
Tiffany Zhong, Gen Z Whisperer [00:02:11] Thank you for having me.
Kinsey [00:02:14] I'm very excited to speak today. You have a really, really interesting background. I'll give a little bit of it, and then I want you to also chime in at any point. You were the co-founder and CEO of Zebra IQ, which is a Gen Z audience intelligence company. You specialize in creating communities and helping brands understand and connect with Gen Z, which is a really important generation to connect with. But it also kind of feels like a bit of an undertaking [laughs] to understand Gen Z and, to a lot of people, it's a really, really impactful group of people. So I wonder what it is that you actually do on a day to day. What's your job?
Tiffany [00:02:46] What is my job? It's a great question. Changes every day. It changes every few hours. So, right now, I am focused on onboarding a lot of different content creators, actually, from artists to athletes to very different verticals. Basically, we're helping creators build their own [indistinct] communities and at the same time, still helping brands get actionable insights from this audience. And so this will be a very relevant conversation because we really do believe in Gen Z Millennials' users getting paid for their data.
Tiffany [00:03:26] Taking the money from the big companies to understand this audience. But at the same time, we're paying them to answer these questions as opposed to just stealing their data and selling it where users don't see a profit. Users don't see anything come in. We want it to be a two-sided relationship where both sides benefit. The brands benefit from the insights and the audience, the users, benefit on the monetary side for exchanging their feedback. And so that's what we're focused on right now. As a CEO, I'm hiring. We're fundraising. I do all sorts of different things. But it's a fun job for sure.
Kinsey [00:04:07] Yeah, I'm sure it is. And I have to say, we put out the ask on Twitter who we should talk about Gen Z and data with, and the overwhelming majority was you have to talk to Tiffany. So, I'm glad that we have you here. And I think that one of the big questions, before we even get into the whole data dividend concept, one of my big questions is what exactly makes Gen Z Gen Z? I've seen some differing reports on what years it is, how many people it is. So to you, can you define Gen Z for the listeners here?
Tiffany [00:04:35] Yes. So, Gen Z starts in 1996. And marketers sometimes do it in 10-year, 15-year batches. So we can say 1996 to 2006. Some people argue that it's even up to people who are born this year. Given that Gen Alpha is still somewhat being established, it's still not a real thing yet. If anyone has any better generation names, please let me know. I'm not sure Gen Alpha is a great name.
Kinsey [00:05:04] Yeah. Is that what they're going with? Gen Alpha?
Tiffany [00:05:07] Yeah, [Kinsey laughs] it's awful. Like, please give me a better name and I'll market it. I'll change this whole generation's name. But the poor kids being born today are named Gen Alpha.
Tiffany [00:05:17] And so, what I've seen as the major differences between Gen Z and Millennials. Millennials are the internet generation, and Gen Zs are the mobile generation. And that's where things differ. We grew up on smartphones. We grew up on iPads. We grew up having everything accessible to us within milliseconds. Anything we want to understand, anything we want to search, anyone we want to stalk on the internet—we can do that within seconds. We can learn anything within hours of spending on YouTube or Google or going down Reddit rabbit holes.
Tiffany [00:05:51] And so that is the overwhelming difference between how Gen Z grew up versus how Millennials grew up. And that really shapes how we approach content creation, how we approach content consumption, how we approach friendships and communication. Everything is different. Given that we're stuck to a small screen pretty much 24/7—other than sleeping.
Kinsey [00:06:13] Yeah, seriously. Like other than sleeping is so true. I sometimes struggle with this concept, though—just full disclosure, because I was born in 1994. I think I'm technically by most measures a Millennial, but I think a lot of people also my age, around 25, 24, 25, 26, are thinking I'm a Cusper. I don't really know which one I belong to.
Kinsey [00:06:34] I remember when I got my first cell phone, but it was like one of those Migo phones that you can call, like, five people, [chuckles]—that I didn't necessarily grow up in the kind of time when you could just get on Instagram from your phone when you were 12 years old. But I also am so totally familiar with that. I have a bit of an identity crisis every time [chuckles] I try to pick a generation that [chuckles] I belong to. But you are Gen Z, right?
Tiffany [00:07:00] I am Gen Z. I am on the tail end of Gen Z. My co-founders are Cuspers, so they understand everything you're going through. It's the same thing. They're like, I'm half Gen Z, half Millennial. And it's also always an identity crisis of which generation do I actually belong to? I'm just like, you're the best of both worlds. [Kinsey laughs] This is what it is. [Kinsey laughs]
Kinsey [00:07:23] Yeah, it is what it is. And, you know, try as I might, I can't change the fact that I'm 25 right now. Talk to me again on November 3rd. Let's get started here. We've got a lot to cover, a lot that I want to talk about. But I think that the most important question here to begin with is a big one. Does Gen Z, on the whole care, about their data, their privacy of their data?
Tiffany [00:07:47] It's a really good question and there's lots of nuances to it, obviously. I would say Gen Z has more of a trigger finger than any other generation, which means Gen Z is very quick to enter an email or a phone number without thinking twice. It's interesting because Gen Z can also call a scam from a mile away. And so this speaks to the evolving contrast between the way Gen Z grew up versus the state of the world now.
Tiffany [00:08:13] Gen Z grew up in a world where personalization became the norm. Personalization became the expected, where you're expecting every app, every store you walk in to, every website you sign up for, to be able to customize everything for you and personalize everything for you based on how you've grown up, essentially.
Tiffany [00:08:35] And so that's what we've seen so far in terms of how Gen Z thinks of it. But there's also an overlapping theme across all generations. People tend to not care about data privacy until they are personally affected. And even then, if you want to know whether anyone from all ages, especially the Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials and how they think about data privacy, we can look back to how consumers reacted to the Equifax breach a couple years ago, where it started off as: Step 1—awareness.
Tiffany [00:09:05] Step 2—outrage. Step 3—short-term behavior modification of like what do I do now. Step 4—oh, I might be able to make money from the class action lawsuit that I'm getting in my email. Step 5—the concern is forgotten over time. Step 6—the payout maybe never arrives, but nobody remembers except a small fraction of folks. In the final step, people carry on with the same behavior, and so I think this goes hand in hand with everything that's happening on Twitter today, which is things are happening so quickly.
Tiffany [00:09:42] Things are trending so quickly. But the other topics become trending topics the next day. And so everything is moving so fast. Everything is trending so quickly that these types of trends are also just forgotten within a few months for the major, major topics that are happening. We're just seeing that cycle happen.
Kinsey [00:10:01] Do you think that data privacy, as we understand it today, is the sort of trend du jour—that eventually we're gonna have something else that we move on to, but right now, it just feels really important?
Tiffany [00:10:12] I think with the news around everything that's happening with TikTok, Facebook, etc., it's what tech people are talking about on Twitter—all day. Tech people and people working within politics. But besides that, if you ask the broader audience, broader population, how much do they actually care about this happening? Ask them in two, three weeks. And they've already moved on. I will guarantee that they've already moved on once TikTok and Gen Z—and TikTok potentially being banned is already, like, forgotten.
Tiffany [00:10:50] I've talked to lots of TikTok creators. We work with lots of TikTok creators, and they're asking me if TikTok will actually get banned and what they should do about it. And when it might happen, as if I somehow run the government and have these answers, which is what I reply back and like, I don't run the government, actually.
Kinsey [00:11:11] Not yet.
Tiffany [00:11:11] So I don't have any concrete answers. [chuckles] Not yet. Hopefully never. [Kinsey chuckles] But what I respond is, we'll see what happens. It's really hard to tell. And then a week later, after the whole save TikTok campaign that happened on TikTok with all these major creators, just [indistinct], which is the ninth-biggest TikTok creator in the world who we work with. He posted a viral TikTok, hundreds of thousands of comments, almost half a million comments, I believe, last time I checked, around creators being like #saveTikTok.
Tiffany [00:11:47] Thinking that they can apply the same principles around the Black Lives Matter movement and petitions to the U.S. to stopping the U.S. government from banning TikTok. And that was last week. And this week, they think that it's all good. They think that TikTok has been saved because they thought the decision would be made end of last week because the news sources were, like, a decision will be made by Friday. It didn't happen. So that's already forgotten. And it just shows how quickly things, news topics, trending topics, are happening in 2020, at least.
Kinsey [00:12:20] Do you think that the concept of a Data Dividend Project is one that Gen Z would buy into?
Tiffany [00:12:26] So it's interesting. We ran a survey, actually, around how Gen Zs think about data privacy, whether they actually care or not. We have some responses that I can share here. A 20-year-old male from California, for example, said it might sound dehumanizing, but the value of the content that they offer is greater than the value of my personal data. And so that's obviously a very strong statement where the personalized feed you're getting, the curated ads you're getting, is very highly valuable in the eyes of these Gen Zs.
Tiffany [00:13:05] Another woman from Kansas, for example, who's 23, said we live in a world where freedom is not really free. And so it goes back to kind of the statement where if something's free, it's probably data or something being sold. You're probably giving up something. Nothing is ever free, right? To the point around a data dividend and whether that would work—I think it's an interesting question. I think it goes back to what we're doing, which is we're giving people money to answer different types of questions and give feedback, essentially data that we're anonymizing, and offering to brands.
Tiffany [00:13:43] And so that's already the first step to helping these consumers earn different types of rewards in exchange for participating in these ecosystems. For Gen Z, it also goes to the point of origin. Like the side hustle generation. They want to be able to generate income on the side. And if they can do that while browsing content and answering really shortform questions, why not? And so another response that we got from our users was having curated ads is honestly very, very effective. But I'm not sure how much more data that they're getting or that they're using around me.
Tiffany [00:14:25] And this is a 22-year-old female. A 27-year-old guy was saying that honestly, I don't really care anymore because tons of apps got my data already. But these days, I try my best to give my data to places where they most likely either are innately accountable, like the way Zebra probably is. And so we're just super-transparent with fundraising right now.
Tiffany [00:14:46] I would get this question a lot from investors, which is kind of how the data flows, how transparent are we with our users around what data that we're selling to brands. And we're as transparent as can be, essentially, around helping make sure that they understand what they're giving up in exchange for monetary incentives.
Kinsey [00:15:07] Yeah, and it's tough because at the same time, a data dividend makes a lot of sense when we value these value exchanges. But also we are already getting a lot out of giving our data. Like you said, we are getting personalization. We are getting these ads that make a lot of sense. So trying to navigate where exactly we start to care about our data being used and at what point suddenly we reached the tipping point where we say, OK, now I don't feel comfortable with this, I think is a real challenge that I can't quite put my finger on it.
Kinsey [00:15:36] Does it bother me that TikTok might know where I am? Not really, if I'm being honest. It doesn't bother me that much because I enjoy using TikTok and, I don't know, it is giving me a little bit of pause [chuckles] trying to understand the value of a data dividend situation if we already get what we need.
Tiffany [00:15:56] Yeah, I think for Gen Zs, they think that the curated feed is already good enough. I mean, the mindset is more so, how do I make my data work for me by giving it to companies that will make my life better? YouTube, for example, they're taking your data, they're giving you fantastic video recommendations. TikTok has obviously taken that to the next level.
Tiffany [00:16:19] But compare that to a news website that makes you sign up before you can read. It's annoying, but it gives you direct benefit and likely won't affect your life negatively in the long run. And so people who are—like Gen Zs who are woke, essentially, are basically thinking about how they can make that data work for them. They're thinking about how they can choose who sees that data so that they directly benefit from this data exchange.
Kinsey [00:16:51] Yeah. And I think that that's something that feels pretty uniquely Gen Z—that they have this capacity to discern what platforms should and should not use their data and are and are not using their data to the biggest possible advantage for the user. I want to talk more about the platform-specific aspect of this in just a second. We're gonna take a short pause to hear from our partner. And when we come back, we will do just that. —
Kinsey [00:17:17] And now back to the conversation on Gen Z and their data with Tiffany Zhong. Tiffany, we were just talking about how Gen Z navigates the platforms that use their data, how they feel comfortable with some and not so comfortable with others. It also brings up something that we talked about with Connie Chan from Andreessen Horowitz recently on the show. She was saying that we have all of these big moral values and core tenets of what we believe, and we believe in privacy.
Kinsey [00:17:45] But when it comes down to it, we're going to value convenience over these perceived values that we've put out in the world for ourselves. When, though, does trust come into play? Because I do think that trust is actually a pretty important value, especially as we consider our use of tech in the grand scheme of the world. Does Gen Z—are they considered a trusting generation? Do they trust these tech leaders to use their data to their best of their abilities after they go through that list of pros and cons? When does trust matter?
Tiffany [00:18:16] Trust is built over time, and Gen Zs are generally very, very skeptical of everyone and everything. And so, with that being said, these companies—trust just takes time, as well as the fact that they're looking at how their friends are using it. They're looking if celebrities are using it and if they are, then the trust factor goes up. I think it's both a combination of social assessment as well as some lightweight personal assessment as well. Do you smell something sketchy going on? If not, they'll move forward with using the product.
Tiffany [00:18:58] But Gen Z is really smart and they're able to discern these things pretty quickly, I would say. And they're also quick to cancel companies that are not working in their favor and are sketchy as well. So if they see something that is bad, that doesn't align with their values or what they think is right, then they'll go and try to get them trending on Twitter and TikTok and get everyone to cancel the app or cancel the company.
Kinsey [00:19:30] Yeah. And I would argue to pretty good success rate [chuckles] so far.
Tiffany [00:19:37] Yeah, yeah. What happened recently was Gen Z's going in and downloading Trump's app and rating it 1 star so that it gets removed off the App Store. That's how it was trending. That's how Trump's app was suddenly number 2 in the App Store. It was because of that.
Kinsey [00:19:59] Yeah, it's an activist generation, I feel in a lot of ways. I do want to avoid making too many generalizations because I do think that that can be unfair at a certain point. But the Millennial generation is so often considered the Me generation. It's a self-centered generation. And as I'm going to identify as a Cusper from here on out, because I feel like maybe that speaks [laughs] to me a little bit more. But I can see that. I can see how that would be the perception from someone on the outside looking in.
Kinsey [00:20:28] And then when you think about Gen Z, it's so often, in media, is considered a generation that is so driven by value, so driven by this need to do something to activate en masse. And I think that it has been really interesting to watch, especially from a business perspective, that they're actually moving the needle in a lot of ways. That young children—not children, but young people—sometimes children, sometimes not, are actually doing things that older generations would not have done. And a lot of that is because of the tech platforms that they are utilizing.
Kinsey [00:21:02] So when we think about this activism beyond just rating an app 1 star or something like that, is there any other way that activists' voices could come to the fore in the data conversation? Do you ever see a time when Gen Z could reach such a critical mass that they could affect real change at Facebook or some big company like that?
Tiffany [00:21:28] If they cared, which they don't. Because there are more pressing issues in the world than data privacy.
Kinsey [00:21:33] Very fair point. [laughs]
Tiffany [00:21:36] That just the truth, where you're not going to see someone like Yara Shahidi trying to take down Facebook. There's so many more things that have a higher priority over that. And to your point around this Gen Z being the activist generation, it's because we grew up on social media. We realized that these tools work for us versus the reverse, which is how Millennials grew up.
Tiffany [00:22:01] We realized that we can utilize these tools to expand any sort of movement we're looking to make. We can make movements go viral. We can make petitions go viral. We can make protests go viral. Videos go viral. I think a better, better way to describe this generation is, I guess, the viral generation.
Tiffany [00:22:25] Gen Zs, if they put their mind to it, they can make anything trend. You think about all the main pages on social media. Most of them are run by kids and literally kids, like high school kids and college kids. And no one even knows who they are. They're really behind the scenes. They're in their bedroom and they're just making things go viral for the sake of it or to support movements. And so that kind of power—it's just unprecedented. You haven't seen that ever before, and Gen Zs are realizing that they can use that for good.
Kinsey [00:22:57] Right. But I also have to wonder if that sort of unchecked power is dangerous.
Tiffany [00:23:04] It's dangerous, but it's also just the same as Gen Xs having the same power. It's just who you want to trust with the power, really, so —
Kinsey [00:23:16] I mean, I can definitely see that. But I also just, like, what I thought the world was when I was 18 is very different from what I consider the world to be at 25.
Tiffany [00:23:28] Yeah.
Kinsey [00:23:28] And it's a different world. A lot has happened [laughs] in the interceding years there. But I just wonder, if we can say this is going to go viral because I want it to and Gen Z has the power to make it happen. Obviously, that can be used to mobilize in really positive and world-changing ways like we've seen in the last six or so months. But at the same time, it's a big question mark. Is that a good thing at all times? Is this cancel culture a good thing?
Tiffany [00:23:57] Right. So I think Gen Zs are much smarter than people think because they're also able to just learn everything online. And so at a much younger age, you are able to absorb all this information without having to go to school and read textbooks to be able to learn. We're getting information in real time. And so we're developing these opinions at a much younger age and we're gathering evidence.
Tiffany [00:24:23] There is a tweet which was like, Gen Z's like a knock-off like FBI, where if you tweet something, looking for someone, something, whatever it is, Gen Zs are going to figure it out really quickly. That's crazy. But at the same time, cancel culture is keeping people, especially celebrities, accountable. And so that's the change that Gen Z is looking for. They're looking to their favorite influencers, to favorite celebrities, their favorite actors, athletes, and they're trying to make change happen that way.
Tiffany [00:24:53] It's arguable on whether this is a positive way to change people, but we know that public humiliation is something that somewhat works. That's just the one that Gen Z is harnessing right now. Whether this is a good long-term solution, I doubt it. There should not be a trend every day of someone being canceled. My prediction is within six months, cancel culture is going to be canceled. And so that's just a hot take from what I think around every day, multiple people are getting canceled on the internet.
Tiffany [00:25:29] We're gonna get tired of this in six months, except for major, major things happening. But those are all coming out already. And so people are also gonna be now realizing that they need to change. Celebrities realize that they need to own up to their mistakes and be better people or else the kids will come after them.
Kinsey [00:25:48] Do you think that the kids could go after these big business leaders, you know, the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Jeff Bezos of the world, and say, we want a data dividend. If you don't give it to us, we will cancel you?
Tiffany [00:26:00] That's a stretch.
Kinsey [00:26:02] A bit of a stretch.
Tiffany [00:26:02] Black Lives Matter more than data dividends matter.
Kinsey [00:26:06] Yeah. Yeah. All right. I completely get it. I know, but I also love that —
Tiffany [00:26:10] We can only focus on so many movements at a time. [Kinsey laughs]
Kinsey [00:26:13] And also, like, have to still go to school and stuff [indistinct]. There are bigger fish to fry.
Tiffany [00:26:18] They'd rather cancel schools before data dividends movement probably happens, I would say.
Kinsey [00:26:26] OK. So it's not exactly a high-priority thing. But it is important to recognize because this might be, like I said at the beginning of this episode, this may be like a uniquely 35-plus [laughs] issue. In just my anecdotal experience and talking about this with some coworkers literally yesterday, the day before we were recording this, talking about, that I said, I don't really give a shit if they know where I am sometimes. Yeah, it could be dangerous at times and whatever if they give my Social Security number away.
Kinsey [00:26:54] But for the most part, using personal data has made my life easier. And I'm OK with that. And I like getting targeted with the things we get targeted [laughs] with for the most effort. But I was talking to some coworkers who were a couple of years older and they basically were like, had this whole freak-out that that was my [laughs] position.
Tiffany [00:27:13] They might freak out. But what are they doing about it? Are they doing anything about it? It's just all posturing.
Kinsey [00:27:19] Exactly. Exactly.
Tiffany [00:27:20] It is all just, let me freak out about privacy. It sounds scary, but let me not take any time to do actual research behind it before I go and yell at the top of my lungs that we want data privacy. If you talk about how Gen Z is powerful on the internet and potentially dangerous with all the power that they have in terms of making things trend, we can talk about Gen X the same way, where they don't know what they're saying. Half of the Gen Xs probably have no idea what they're saying around data privacy, given that they're probably reading random websites and trusting them.
Kinsey [00:28:01] Yeah.
Tiffany [00:28:02] And maybe you should be a bit more discerning about the kind of content that you're reading on the internet, given that there's a ton of fake news.
Kinsey [00:28:12] Yeah.
Tiffany [00:28:12] Boomers are usually the ones who are tricked by the fake news. So that's more dangerous.
Kinsey [00:28:17] And there's benefit number one of being this generation that was raised on the internet—is that we can smell something a mile away. And we understand when something is fake, we understand when something is not genuine or not a genuine representation of what's going on in the world, I would argue much better than most generations can. And you might notice that I'm using Weeb. [laughs] I want to be counted and part of this.
Tiffany [00:28:42] Welcome to the movement.
Kinsey [00:28:44] Thank you. Happy to be here. [laughs] So, Tiffany, that was a great mic drop of an answer. So we're going to take a short break to hear from our partner. When we come back, we're going to have a little fun. —
Kinsey [00:28:56] And now back to the conversation with the Gen Z Whisperer herself, Tiffany Zhong. Tiffany, we have talked about a lot here. I really feel like you stuck the landing with that last answer. And so now we're going to have some fun, do some weird shit, learn a little bit more. But I'm going to give you a couple of options of games to play. So we have three games, and I would like to get to all of them. But your options are story time, challenge, or crystal ball. So which one do you want to first?
Tiffany [00:29:25] Crystal ball.
Kinsey [00:29:26] All right, crystal ball. So what will Gen Z look and act like in 20 years when they're not the teen generation, but rather the adult generation?
Tiffany [00:29:35] In 20 years, the tail end of Gen Z's gonna be 43, which would be me in 20 years, which is crazy to think about. I'm going to basically be a boomer by that time or of a boomer age. I think in 20 years, we're going to be living in a virtual world, everything's just going to be virtual within VR and AR. And, yeah, I have no idea. Will we be on other planets already? Will we be in outer space? Like, how will everything have changed? I think it's going to be a dramatic change within 10 years, uh, 20 years.
Kinsey [00:30:14] So you're preparing for a huge cultural paradigm shift?
Tiffany [00:30:18] Yeah. I'm preparing for everything to shift. Like, everything. In 20 years.
Kinsey [00:30:24] OK. [laughs] OK.
Tiffany [00:30:26] By that time, Gen Zs will be running the world, which is also something to think about.
Kinsey [00:30:30] Yeah. Well within the age to run for president. If the office of president still exists.
Tiffany [00:30:36] Oh, yes, we have presidents, I think. My prediction is it's going to be an internet celebrity who becomes president within 20 years. Another hot take. [Kinsey laughs] It's going to be crazy times.
Kinsey [00:30:48] OK, so now story time or challenge, which one you wanna do first?
Tiffany [00:30:52] Story time.
Kinsey [00:30:53] OK. How did you end up working in venture capital as a teenager? Tell us the story.
Tiffany [00:31:00] The story is I started using Twitter when I was 15 or 16 years old. The reason behind why I made a Twitter account was I wanted to ask people questions and I saw that these famous tech people were using Twitter, were answering questions. I didn't know about cold emailing then. And so Twitter was my alternative. Gen Z's first solution is going to social media as opposed to email. And this is a good example of it. So I started using Twitter to reply to people, ask people questions.
Tiffany [00:31:29] First person that I started engaging with on Twitter, and asking a bunch of questions that I was just curious about, was Marc Andreessen. And he was super-active. He was tweeting ten times a day. And so I would just be like, why do you think this way? Why do you think that way? And I was just curious. No one knew who I was too, so I had nothing to lose. And that's always been my mindset, which is do everything with the mindset of nothing to lose. And that mindset is just freeing for anything you want to be able to do.
Tiffany [00:31:58] And so with that, I ended up meeting a lot of investors. A lot of entrepreneurs just through Twitter. And from there, I ended up working at Product Hunt at my senior year of high school. After that, I was already tweeting about consumer apps, consumer product, how to build communities just from my experience at Product Hunt.
Tiffany [00:32:21] And I ended up joining a $300 million VC firm right after high school. And I was 18 at the time. I was investing for a year and a half. And then I finally started college and tried out UC Berkeley for a year before dropping out and starting Zebra IQ.
Kinsey [00:32:43] It's incredible. It's like a crazy story, but it's, I think, a really powerful story of getting what you want and just going into the world with that mindset of nothing to lose, which is so important. It's a question I often ask myself is, what's the worst possible outcome if I do this thing, and if it's something that I can stomach, then just do it. Just send the tweet. Just —
Tiffany [00:33:07] It's usually not as bad as you think. It's usually—the worst that can happen is not as bad as you think.
Kinsey [00:33:13] Awesome. OK, so the last question that I have for you is the challenge question. Tiffany, do you know how to do any of these viral TikTok dances that have absolutely taken the world by storm?
Tiffany [00:33:24] I am not a dancer. I've tried to learn.
Kinsey [00:33:26] You don't do any of them?
Tiffany [00:33:27] I've tried to learn them.
Kinsey [00:33:28] OK.
Tiffany [00:33:29] Especially during quarantine times. And I think I need to go to a real TikTok star's house after the pandemic is over to have them teach me [indistinct] because these YouTube videos are not cutting it. I do not know how to mirror a YouTube video and my body does not move that way. I cannot dance. [Kinsey laughs] So I need someone to teach me in real life.
Kinsey [00:33:57] I feel the exact same frustration—that I just can't figure it out.
Tiffany [00:34:01] I'm going to stick to tweeting. It's a lot easier to —
Kinsey [00:34:04] I've got that down pat. [laughs] Yeah, any TikTokers out there want to offer your services pro bono to teach us?
Tiffany [00:34:13] Well, I have TikTokers; they can teach us.
Kinsey [00:34:16] Take me with you.
Tiffany [00:34:17] We'll go. We'll go to LA and we'll figure this out.
Kinsey [00:34:21] OK. Perfect. All we need is just this pandemic to end.
Tiffany [00:34:24] Or we do a Zoom call.
Kinsey [00:34:25] OK. Yeah, that could work.
Tiffany [00:34:27] Where we force them to teach us step by step.
Kinsey [00:34:31] I smell a side hustle for someone. Someone should be out there teaching people how to do these TikTok dances over Zoom. Maybe we'll set it up. But Tiffany, thank you so much for playing along with these questions, for explaining all of this to me. I think that the big takeaway for me here is that it's all about the exchange of value. It's all about knowing what you're gonna get out of something before you put something in. I think Gen Z is really uniquely positioned to be the kind of generation that makes that a priority more than anybody else has previously.
Kinsey [00:35:03] So I'm excited to see what happens as they age into more voting power, more purchasing power, and really make the voice heard. But thank you so much for the insights, for coming by, and I really appreciate it.
Tiffany [00:35:16] Thanks for having me. Kinsey. This was fun.
Kinsey [00:35:26] Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Business Casual. You heard Tiffany say that you should follow us on Twitter and get the conversation started. So I'm going to remind you to do just that. If you want to follow Tiffany, her handle is @ T Z H O N G G. That's TZhong with two Gs at the end. And mine is @KinseyGrant. See you next time. [sound of a ding]