We love a good app growth story, don’t you?
When we heard the story of Blue Fever app—its founders, how it started, the reason for its existence, its growth, its transformation—we knew it had to be told.
We talked directly with the co-founders of Blue Fever, Greta McAnanay (current CEO) and Lauren Tracy (former CEO), about the product’s history and every step that it took to create this new place for authentic identity development online.
Blue Fever is an anonymous social app where young people can be their truest selves together,” says Greta.
Lauren adds, “The app is chock-full of Gen Zers relating to each other through expressive ‘visual journal entries’ they create. The key: There is no access to the phone’s camera to ensure inside-out expression (not selfies) and dramatically reduce fear of judgment from others.”
About Blue Fever app
What exactly is Blue Fever and what is it all about?
First off, let’s understand the need that this app meets. Gen Z is exhausted from growing up on toxic social platforms. Trust and engagement are slipping: 64% are taking a break and 34% are leaving social media entirely because of loneliness + cancel culture.
There’s clearly a need for online spaces that provide emotional relevance. Enter Blue Fever—a new kind of platform they call
Social Media Emotional Media.
Blue Fever is:
- An antidote to social media for Gen Z that facilitates safe and authentic self expression, social support and positive guidance based on emotional relevance.
- A non-toxic, community app for teenage girls to anonymously express their authentic self with the guidance of a big sibling algorithm who connects you to support (content, people, products, experiences) for your emotional journey.
When you look at the co-founders of Blue Fever, it’s easy to understand the why behind how this mobile app came to be.
For Greta, who grew up with an older brother with special needs, she always yearned for an older sister to tell her feelings, fears, and no-so-great moments to. To have a mentor (that’s more relatable than mom) who would have her back and validate her feelings and struggles. This is the role that Greta believes Blue Fever can play in the lives of so many teens that need this safe, judgment-free outlet that the big social platforms don’t provide.
Lauren, who’s always been an advocate for emotional wellness, first started discovering the need for this space as a college student in the late 2000s—right at the time when YouTube and Facebook were really becoming a thing. Lauren says, “I always feel my best when I have the support of others emotionally. I want everyone to have that feeling.” For her, it became about figuring out how to bring more creative expression to a wider group of people to feel seen, heard and supported.
Blue Fever’s beginnings & how it scaled
When Blue Fever started out, it was positioned as a “mood-based Netflix” for young women. What did this look like behind the scenes? Greta and Lauren spent their time hand categorizing thousands of emotionally-impactful YouTube videos that were sent to teen girls via text message based on how they were feeling.
Users began receiving text messages from Blue, who was there to listen and offer a supportive boost when needed. Blue chatted with users and asked how they were feeling, validated their emotions and followed up with a personalized media recommendation like a video or self care app to try.
Blue Fever’s pivoting point
In product management, “pivoting” means changing the direction of your business strategy when the current product isn’t meeting your business objectives.
From the beginning, Blue Fever was a messaging platform—Blue was just another friend or number in the user’s phone. User acquisition through inexpensive ads and product changes helped them grow to hundreds of thousands users with very high user retention numbers, but the business model wasn’t sustainable long term.
After a lot of R & D and new builds for a type of product that would be more sustainable, they tested designs on Blue’s text message users until they landed on a design that they loved. And that’s how the user-friendly, fully-scalable mobile app that we now know as Blue Fever in the iOS App Store was born.
Blue Fever’s brand positioning process
So how does an emotional media app set itself apart from social media giants like Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok?
Other than having a massive network effect, these dominant platforms have another key thing in common: they don’t secure a safe environment for authentic self-expression. Blue Fever is a ‘belonging and becoming’ platform, whereas these other platforms are about pure social connection that has morphed into a ‘performing’ platform.
This translates into large numbers of trolls, predators and bullies that have free reign to access these sites and use them in toxic ways. Through Blue Fever’s history and experience with young women, they discovered that their target users’ biggest complaint was that it’s really scary to actually be your “real self” on traditional social platforms.
There are so many instances of hate, discrimination, judgment—even from friends—that are relayed through photos comments and direct messages. This fear of backlash causes users to curate an “ideal brand” for their online selves, which translates into self-censorship. By doing so, teens (who need it most) are skipping the self-healing step that comes from authentic self-expression.
And this is how Blue Fever sets itself apart.
Everything from the in-app experience to the branding and marketing communicates a consistent message: Blue Fever is a safe, anonymous, inclusive space with toxicity filters and strict privacy practices in place to support you on your growing up journey.
Privacy fuels app growth strategy
When the app first launched, privacy and anonymity—and protecting its young user base from “bad people”—were the most important things. The Gen Z audience confirmed that they wouldn’t try an app like this without the guarantee of anonymity, so it was fundamental to make privacy the basis of Blue Fever’s growth strategy.
On top of that, Blue Fever took the extra step to remove toxicity from the user experience. When a user posts something, “inside out” emotional intelligence triggers Blue to give gentle feedback about what may incite negative responses and gives the option to change it. Also, users can only react with a hug or a “relate” with a sticker or gif from a curated list of supportive options.
Blue Fever’s funding process
Blue Fever’s founders went through stages in the product investing and funding process:
- Collecting from angel investors and participating in a tech accelerator called Techstars
- Moved to convertible notes—which are debt vehicles that turn into equity ownership for those early investors when the company reached a more stable period
- When they reached 30,000 users, the team set out to raise an official equity round that was their seed round—the convertible debt turned into equity for those early investors. At this stage, they developed a board and started having official board meetings
- After the seed round, they did a bridge round—which is when they got Amazon, Bumble and the Serena Williams Fund investment
Blue Fever’s monetization plans
To date, Blue Fever hasn’t monetized. The focus has been on experimenting on the best way to implement a monetization strategy that best aligns with Blue Fever’s philosophy and aligns with users’ values. As Gen Z experts who have a track record of creating trusted spaces for teens, they plan to test monetization by providing support for their audience via:
- emotionally contextual recommendations of content, products and services
- co-creating interactive spaces with brands and creators around particular life events
Looking back at the process, Blue Fever’s founders recall their most critical learnings. Their main takeaways focus on the approach to achieve market fit and the four pieces that need need to be nailed down and executed in sequential order:
- Knowing who your customer is and everything about what makes them tick
- Building a product that they love and use
- Developing a solid go-to-market strategy that aligns with your business model
- Having a business model that aligns with the core values of the product
Figuring these four things out—and doing each one extremely well—will put you on the right track to success.
Final Thoughts: Trust your intuition + follow the data!
We’d like to wrap up this story with some first-hand advice from Blue Fever’s founders, Greta and Lauren. The most valuable takeaway we get from speaking to entrepreneurs who have gone through the building and app growth process is getting their heartfelt words of wisdom.
Their advice for those looking to achieve mobile app success is listen to your users, test what works and what doesn’t, collaborate with partners that can help you build and are experts at what they do—all while staying laser-focused on what your product’s value proposition is and the type of experience you want the user to have. It’s easy to get caught up in trying a million things but, in the end, you need to stay true to your core values and follow where the data leads you.
Lauren states in this analogy:
“It might feel scary to be at the front of a train going a million miles a second and you’re building the track while you’re on it. But if you look to the right and look to the left, there are experts out there who have done what you’re trying to do. At the end of the day, it’s your job as an entrepreneur to go out, find all these pieces and then trust your gut instinct on how to put them together—and that’s where newness is created.”
“Test and learn, test and learn, and test and learn! At Blue Fever, we have amazing intuition and our bets have paid off but we’ve also seen that when we don’t rely on the data, it slows us down. So, it’s really a combination of intuition and data. Test stuff before you start building and designing, and then once you’ve done that, keep testing it and listening to your users along the way.”
We couldn’t agree more! For an expert consultation on how to take your mobile app to the next level, don’t hesitate to contact us. We want to see your app succeed and will help you build the track to get you there.