Slope Interview Series: Joanna Shan, Monet

Joanna Shan, Monet

For people who don’t know you, talk briefly about your background and what led you to start Monet. 

I studied at UCSD for my freshman year of college, and then I transferred to UPenn. Before starting at Penn, I decided to take a gap year, and that’s when some high school friends and I created Monet. 

Monet is a dating, friend-making app where you start conversations by sending a drawing. Truthfully, it started as more of a passion project that I worked on with close friends—it wasn’t something we thought would blow up, but it did!

We launched our beta last October, and we arrived on the App Store in December. Since then we’ve acquired 30,000 users and raised our first round of funding.

What’s the main problem that Monet solves?

There’s not enough fun, casual ways to meet people online—either platonically or romantically. Although Tinder is a great way to make friends in a new city, it carries tons of implicit expectations, and it feels grimy. 

We realized that we could create a new, fun way for people to interact and showcase their creativity. Drawing might seem like an odd way to meet people, but it’s actually a great way to start a casual conversation. When you draw, you can’t hide yourself. You can’t lie. You can be effortlessly funny or make something that looks horrible (but that breaks the ice). It’s a fun, low-stakes medium to express your personality.

One of the first TikTok videos you posted about Monet went viral within a day and attracted 570,000+ views and 180,000+ likes. How did you use TikTok to grow Monet?

TikTok is the way to grow anything in 2021. 

Originally, we viewed TikTok as a simple way to talk about Monet and update our friends on our work.

But after some of our posts blew up way more than we expected, we leaned into TikTok as our primary marketing strategy.

TikTok became the place for us to be totally honest and transparent about our journey. People loved that style of content and really supported our journey. 

I think that speaks to our collective love of feeling like we’re a part of someone’s journey, like we’re participating in something bigger than themselves. TikTok allows creators and founders to build that sort of community, moreso than other social channels. 

After our marketing on TikTok, Monet has grown to the point where people know us—they’re like “OMG! You’re those college students who created Monet!” Additionally, sometimes our content shows up on other people’s FYP (even if they’re not following us), and they’ll learn more about our app and our mission. 

Overall, TikTok has been a great way to document our journey and build a real, committed community around Monet.

TikTok is often touted as the app for digital natives + Gen Z—how and why do you think the platform captures the cultural zeitgeist of Gen Z? 

I was actually just reading the latest issue of Rex Woodbury’s “Digital Native,” newsletter, and he touches on this question.

He talks about how, on most social platforms (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc.), the 90/9/1 Rule holds strong: 90% of users passively use the platform and never really post; 9% of users put out small, inconsistent forms of content, and 1% of users create the majority of the content. 

TikTok blows that rule out of the water—over half of all TikTok users create content. 

The app is democratizing content creation like no other social platform has ever done. 

TikTok makes it cheap and easy to create content and generate a huge online following. Everyone wants to participate, and there’s tons of people who’ve easily reached 150,000+ followers. Additionally, the algorithm makes it an even playing field by truly giving anyone the chance to go viral. 

There’s also no stigma around creating a TikTok account and posting videos. Contrast that to a platform like YouTube—putting out videos on YouTube feels more vulnerable and high-stakes, like you’re trying to create a perfect public persona. TikTok is way more budget-friendly, (all you need is a phone), casual, and relaxed.

Besides TikTok, have you explored any other paid/unpaid user acquisition strategies?

We’ve explored other platforms, but TikTok remains our main channel for acquiring users and building community. It’s free, it’s way more effective than any other platform, and it’s at the center of the whole culture around social media. 

In terms of our user base, we’re definitely very young—most of our users are between 18-24 years old. And that makes sense because most people hear about Monet through TikTok, which tends towards a younger audience.

What advice would you give other brands/founders wanting to use TikTok to generate excitement and growth around their company?

It’s always smart to tell a story. Create a narrative; put the founders on camera; talk about your process; give people an inside window into your work. It’s way easier to empathize with regular people as opposed to a brand that creates corporate-feeling content.

“Be authentic,” is the cliché piece of advice for TikTok, but it’s cliché for a reason. It works. 

Some other tips for starting out on TikTok:

  • Don’t be camera-shy

I hate putting my face on camera…but I knew I had to overcome that fear, and after a few videos I realized it’s really not that bad!

  • Post consistently  

Stay consistent. Even if your first few videos flop, that’s ok. Keep posting. Eventually something will catch the algorithm and generate interest. Don’t get discouraged.

  • Diversify your content

Figure out what people in your niche post on TikTok. Find out what’s popular and hop on those trends. Try all different types of videos, and don’t shy away from something new. There’s no “formula” for what specific types of videos do well on TikTok, so stay up-to-date on the trends and what’s hot in your space.

  • Grab your viewer’s attention in the first few seconds 

The first few seconds of your video are vital. If you can’t grab your viewer’s attention, they’ll just keep scrolling. Watch-through-rate matters for TikTok’s algorithm—if someone watches your whole video, that boosts your content. So keep your content short and concise. Or, for longer videos, make sure it's engaging throughout its entirety.

  • Try growth hacking engagement

Don’t be afraid to growth hack engagement, because that’s another metric that matters for the algorithm. Get your friends to like and comment on your video, and respond to those comments. Be shameless when you’re just starting out—your videos might feel embarrassing, but that doesn’t matter. After all, it’s 100% free, and there’s nothing to lose.

What’s next for you and the Monet team? 

We’ve been working hard on the second version of the Monet app, and we’re planning on launching this coming summer! You can sign up for our beta at

Let’s Chat: