In Conversation with Yash Dutt and Dunija Ariyaratne, Co-Founders of TechFlow
15 year-old TechFlow Co-Founders Yash Dutt and Dunija Ariyaratne are highly impressive young starters from Queensland. The teen entrepreneurs’ popular student run technology community features reviews from students’ perspectives and has attracted the attention of global technology leaders.
We spoke with Yash and Dunija about the role social media has played in their start-up and the importance of social media education to enable more youth entrepreneurship, innovation and social change.
Tell us a bit about TechFlow and your start-up journey so far?
It all started with both of us being really interested in technology. In June of last year we had a Science assignment that allowed us to create a presentation through our choice of media. Most people used Powerpoint, but we created a website: http://hpylorii.weebly.com We watched YouTube videos to learn how to make the website. It was fun and we learnt new skills, so we went on to create another website.
We were following CNET, The Verge, The Next Web, Jonathon Morrison and people like that on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We’d see what everyone was up to by following these leaders in technology and we had an idea to create a space where young people could share their opinions and reviews on new technology.
Our second site, The Edge, was a media tech site with opinion articles and by using Reddit we got quite a big following pretty quickly. It did so well that we went on to create a proper website. We came up with the name TechFlow through a chat on iMessage and then bought the domain name, hosting and started recruiting more writers. Our team of writers are all part of the Engineering course at school and into tech.
Our biggest break so far came through an invitation to the Advance Queensland Investment and Innovation Summit in April this year. We were lucky enough to be able to ask Steve Wozniak a question during the live chat and Anastacia Palaszczuk and Leanne Enoch started tweeting about TechFlow and what we were doing. We were also invited to take over the Advance Queensland Twitter feed for a while.
From the Summit and also the EduTech Conference in May we have had the opportunity to connect and collaborate with so many different people like our mentor Jock Fairweather from Little Tokyo Two and other inspiring entrepreneurs like Jane Lu from Showpo and Melanie Perkins from Canva. We got tonnes of business cards and we looked everyone up on LinkedIn and Twitter to connect. If we ever need help on something we have this incredible network we are able to reach out to.
You’ve mentioned YouTube, Reddit, iMessage, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter all playing a role for TechFlow. How important has social media been for your success?
It was really through social media that we learned there aren’t many opportunities for teens to write about technology or space to get their views heard about technology – we realized this by doing so much research on YouTube and other social media. This is how it became more obvious that we had a point of difference.
At EduTech we met the Marketing Manager of Google and we created a video interview with her and shared it on Facebook. We got thousands of views and this led to more opportunities. When we review a tech product the company will usually share the article across their social media and this leads to more opportunities as well. It’s really our way to get the word out.
Social media is such a unique way to represent yourself. You can express yourself and share your story in a way that you usually can’t, through photos and text. It’s also so powerful in the way you can make positive connections with so many smart people all over the world.
To what extent do you think teachers in schools are aware of the potential and opportunities available for collaborating and connecting with social media?
Most teachers aren’t really aware of the benefits of social media. They don’t want us to use it at all because they are fearful of what can go wrong. A lot of teachers don’t use social media much themselves and would prefer it just went away. If teachers had a better understanding of the potential of social media it would be good, because then they would have a better understanding of why we use it the way we do.
What education or information have you received around how to best use social media to support entrepreneurship?
There is a huge ban on social media at school. We’ve had investigators, officers and guidance counsellors consistently making us aware of all the things that can go wrong on social media and why we need to be cautious about our digital footprint and what we post online. This is important, but what’s missing is any focus on the beauty of social media.
Our mentor has introduced us to a social media marketing specialist and we are working with her on a social media plan for TechFlow, like our content and consistency on different social media networks. It would be great to have more education on how to best use social media at school.
What social media networks have you found to be the most effective?
LinkedIn and Twitter have been the most powerful networks for us because they make it so easy to connect with people we don’t know. Most of our peers are on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, but not LinkedIn or Twitter. Students look at these and see them as platforms for older people because they are so text based and business-focused or political.
Most students don’t realise the potential of these networks, but there are so many opportunities on LinkedIn – it’s a great way to present yourself, connect with people, and even if you’re interested in a certain topic but you don’t know where you can take that, on LinkedIn you can search for that field and you find great people doing those things. Then you can connect with them. There is no harm in asking anyway. Mum says, “if you don’t ask, the answer is always going to be no.”
For other teen entrepreneurs who are just starting out, what would be your top 3 tips for how they can use social media?
- Follow people and influencers who are in your space and find out what is out there. Listen to what they are doing right and emulate that with your own spin. Learn from the people you follow.
- Connect with the right people, particularly on LinkedIn and Twitter. Tweet people who are doing cool stuff and start a conversation.
- Be consistent. Create great content that your audience will relate to. Be on time. This will build credibility and loyalty.