Q&A with Sophia Latessa


Sophia Latessa is a 16-year-old tech entrepreneur and Founder & CEO of MemeStream. She’ll be joining our Youth Panel on stage at YMS, giving her views on the brands that 16-24s love. Here she tell us her story so far...


Tell us the story behind MemeStream…

Being a tech savvy teenager, I spent most of my time on social platforms scrolling through feeds. I became very fascinated with how my friends were communicating online and I began noticing patterns within my friendship groups that were using memes to communicate events or emotions. The user behavior–that even I hadn't realized I was doing–was using the comment section to recaption popular memes that were trending that day. From that point, I did extensive research and found that there was no platform that allowed users the feasibility of re-captioning photos online or even further, a platform solely dedicated to the meme culture that has been evolving for years. I thought, revised, and thought again until I spoke to my mom and said, ‘I'm going to start a company, and I need your help.’


What made you decide as a 15 year old to set up your own business?

Since a young age, I always found myself building and creating products. At 10 years old, I started my own chewing gum business: making and selling chewing gum to my classmates. Then, I ventured into the food industry and concocted my own version of a natural sports drink to replace Gatorade for teen athletes. Out of the 150 emails that I sent out to various universities in my area, Boston, the only responses I received were from the department heads of the Harvard School of Public Health. I put this project on hold after I found out that Gatorade was launching an organic sports drink as well (damn!).

Soon after, I fell into technology and began taking apart/putting back together electronics understanding the logistics behind how they worked. Starting my own technology business at 15 years old did not feel out of the norm for me. Fortunately, with the support around me, I became a natural risk taker and was taught from a young age that nothing is out of reach. With this in mind, I asked my mom to take me to the bank to register my company bank account, Thatechgirl, LLC. And that’s when my story as a young entrepreneur started.


And how are you finding juggling high school and running a business?

I truly believe that when someone has a strong passion for what they do finding time in no issue. I love my company, and I love technology. Even if it’s 2:30am, I will be on my computer updating my networks or checking my servers; there is time everywhere, but without the passion there simply wouldn’t be that drive to continue to innovate your product. I have to admit, time management is key.


Why do you think memes have become so popular with young people?

Memes have become increasingly popular over time with Gen-Zers/Millennials, we like to get our information through small bits of content AKA images. One caption and one image is equivalent to reading about a current event from a news source. We, Gen-Zers and Millennials, do not typical watch the news or read the newspaper. Our news is compiled into one .jpeg on a social platform, a meme.


What tips have you got for brands getting involved in meme marketing?

1. BE RELEVANT. Understand the meme trend that is already occurring online and through the social platforms. Follow popular meme accounts, and post similar topics or phrases customized to what your brand values.

2. POST FAST. Have an meme idea? Post it. It may be that one meme you don’t think will hit it that actually goes viral with your customers, making them remember your brand because of the meme you posted.

3. RESEARCH. On the other hand, it is important to understand your target audience. Research and create content with their behavior in mind. As we can see from past ad campaigns–United and Pepsi–a meme can have great impact on your company’s image.


What brands do you admire that you think have got ‘talking to young people’ right?

Many brands have incredible marketing teams who are recognizing behaviors online and emulating that behavior within their ads. Kit Kat and Bai drinks are two companies that have continued to stand out in the marking place with their ads. Specifically, Bai drinks, has focused their attention on billboards. Using acronyms that the younger generation can relate to and convey their message in sound bites, leaving a memorable ad in our heads when we pass the drink aisle at the grocery store.


What trends have you spotted when it comes to young people and digital language / communications?

Because of platforms like Instagram, Messenger, and Snapchat direct message, I have noticed my friends and I have lessened our attention on sending messages through Apple’s iMessage or standard SMS text. We are more eager to communicate through in app messaging; It is much quicker and easier to use.


What do you think the next ‘big thing’ will be when it comes to young people communicating online or via mobile.

I believe the younger generation is becoming more comfortable with using their phone as a TV. Most of my generation will admit they don’t watch TV and only watch videos through platforms like Facebook Watch, Youtube, or Netflix. By this behavior, I can predict that Youtube influencers will start creating their own original series similar to Netflix original shows, or Instagram will start creating mini shows and post episodes daily/weekly.


And finally a few fun questions…

What’s been the best moment of your career so far?

Attending Facebook’s Annual Developer Conference was the most incredible experience for a young entrepreneur like me. Growing up with the website, it was a dream to listen to the speakers during keynotes and meet the teams behind the products I use for my app. I was able to directly speak with the team that built Facebook Analytics and told them how powerful and important that feature was when I launched my app. If you would like to read more about my experiences in depth, I wrote an article on Medium about my experience called “8 Things I Loved About Attending F8 2017.” A close tie would be when I was on my way school and I received an email from Apple saying my app submission was approved; my app launched two hours later during Algebra class.


Favourite app? Why?

Soundcloud hands down has become one of my favorite apps on the App Store. The UX/UI design is beautiful, easy-to use, and vibrant. I love the concept behind the app, and I know many artists that are able to launch their careers just because of this platform. Overall, great music, great design, and great experience. Also, shoutout to Chance the Rapper for saving the company!


Something few people know about you?

Besides attending high school and working in my office, I spend a lot of my time as a competitive foil fencer. I travel nationally for tournaments and captain the team at my high school. I am a lover of KPOP music and a speaker of Japanese!


What are you most looking forward to at YMS?

I hope that I can add value to the conversation among the other incredible speakers attending and give insight about marketing towards my generation. I’m also extremely excited about meeting all the attendees and panelist at the event.


Finally, what should we have asked you that we didn’t?

What are you working on now that you are 17?

From fifteen to seventeen years old, I have matured tremendously. My passion for science and technology has become driven around this main idea: how can I build products, software, and platforms that create change and help people?