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"I think people, adults especially, there's a real disconnect realizing Internet friends are just as important to teens as real world friends," Monkey co-founder Isaiah Turner said.
That may be one reason why the app has taken off among the younger set: In April, it was the top i OS app downloaded, according to analytics firm App Annie.
"If I hadn't done it I wouldn't have started Monkey, and Monkey is one of the best things that happened." To avoid the issues with its predecessor, Monkey employees – who have an average age of 18 – built AI to detect inappropriate content, Turner says. Once reported, the AI scans the chat, according to Turner.
If it detects any explicit content, the user is banned automatically.
"I'm sorry that you experienced explicit content," Turner said.
"To clarify, however, the machine learning and human monitoring kicks in when a user is reported.
The app was meant to be an updated version of random video-chat site Chatroulette for today's teens, but without the sexually explicit content.
Turner and his team developed artificial intelligence technology that would help detect inappropriate content, along with tools to allow users to report it.
"My parents didn't help me to drop out, but once it finally happened they supported my decision," Turner admitted.
Soon after, Pasternak was calling Turner with the idea for Monkey, a way to create a community of teens where they could meet people or find others with shared interests. You didn't meet people you had a lot of in common with." Turner and Pasternak aren't just your average teens with an idea.
"Chatroulette wasn't a very inspiring place," said Turner. When he was 15, Pasternak received a round of venture capital from Binary Capital for a social app known as Flogg.
The two met years ago as most kids these days do: on the Internet.
They finally met in person at Apple's app developer conference, WWDC, in 2015.