Information is Power, Use it for Good: Lessons from VProud
Can you imagine an information-sharing platform and social media network free of trolls? What kind of fellowship and exchange of ideas might take place in a forum where members felt shielded enough from scathing comments to honestly share and collaborate? Meet Karen Cahn, a former Google, AOL, and YouTube executive, and mother of two, who set out to achieve just that. Her brainchild and hard work resulted in the establishment of VProud, a video-driven conversation platform created by women for women to discuss what's important to them in a troll-free environment. EverydayFamily was lucky enough to have the honor and privilege of interviewing Cahn, Founder and CEO of VProud, about this exciting venture and what is in store for the future.
Cahn's passion for creating a positive social media platform for women is so contagious and her business model so novel that we decided to share her fascinating journey in a two-part interview series. In Part One, we asked Cahn to share her inspiration for creating VProud, explain how it works, describe how VProud tackles trolls, and recommend content of interest to EverydayFamily readers. If you missed that interview, you can read it here.
Today, we are privileged to have Cahn return for a second interview to discuss new developments at VProud, like the recent launch of their Learn from Her program. EverydayFamily also asked Cahn to share some VProud success stories about ways the information-sharing platform is making a difference in the community of users. Finally, Cahn will be sharing VProud’s vision for the future to include their short- and long-term goals.
EF: Tell us about the new Learn from Her program VProud launched earlier this month. What kind of course offerings are available, and what do you envision for the future?
Karen Cahn: Since launching VProud a year ago, our team began to see a recurrent need for information on specific health topics affecting women and families that required the expertise of medical specialists in their given fields. We observed women repeatedly asking the same questions and attempting to search Google for detailed health-related information that directly impacted their well-being and that of their children. Unfortunately, the information users found via online searches led them to websites with varying degrees of accuracy and was often not reliable or actionable health guidance for these women. It inspired my partner, Naama Bloom of HelloFlo, and I to try to bring “in-house” the expertise of the finest specialists in the country to support the health needs and concerns of our women who couldn’t travel cross-country to see these specialists. The result was the creation of the Learn from Her division.
Each Learn from Her course is one hour in duration and priced at the cost of a health insurance co-pay (between $10-$35). The idea is you are actually getting an hour-long session with a doctor, a best-in-class female specialist in the field. VProud actually went across the country with our production team to find and interview the best female doctors in each specialty area because we wanted to bring the brightest minds on these subjects to women everywhere. We’re also going to be launching a scholarship to make the information accessible to people who can’t afford to purchase a Learn from Her course but desperately desire that class information. People who are in need can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get hooked up.
Current VProud Learn from Her offerings include:
- “Dealing with Eating Disorders” Taught by Dr. Judith Brisman
- “Control Your Leaking” Taught by Dr. Sandy Hilton and Missy Lavender
- “Parenting Through Puberty” Taught by Dr. Cara Natterson
- “Managing Your Family's Sugar” Taught by Shari Boockvar
- “Fertility for Beginners” Taught by Margaret Sikowitz
- “Understanding Sexual Dysfunction” Taught by Dr. Jessica Shepherd
- “Decoding Your Child's Behavior” Taught by Dr. Sandra Mann
VProud and HelloFlo plan to add one new course each month. While the majority of Learn from Her courses are created exclusively for adults, VProud is creating a few of them to have dual target audiences. The idea is that a parent and child can sit down and watch them together and use them to start a conversation on an important topic. The current “Parenting through Puberty” course is one such example. Although not all parents may wish to partake of the class in this manner, many parents are watching it with their own preteens to help them understand the science behind puberty and what will happen to their bodies, hormones, and moods. The video can open up a dialogue between a child and parent and be empowering for both. Learn from Her courses like these will be a wonderful starting place for parents who really want to discuss these topics but are intimidated and not sure how to approach them. Users can use these classes as a springboard for opening the conversation. You can watch a video and pause it at certain points and ask your son or daughter, “What did you think of that?”
EF: What have been your most memorable or meaningful conversation topics since VProud's inception? Do you see VProud as a force for making a difference in the local, national, and global community of users?
Karen Cahn: Yes, I have observed VProud making a difference in the local, national, and global community of users as both a support group, educational tool, source of inspiration, and force for social change. There have been so many meaningful conversation threads in such a diverse array of topics.
I am really excited about the impact of VProud parenting conversations on our social media platform and the support available to mothers feeling overwhelmed in today’s fast-paced, high-pressure society. There are a lot of moms out there feeling like failures, trying to navigate the multitude of work, family, health, extracurricular, and household responsibilities. The expectations we women place upon ourselves are often so unreasonably high. With the exchanges and support network on VProud, moms are expressing gratitude for the collaborative ideas and camaraderie, and especially the honesty. Users express that they no longer feel so alone and defeated.
Other areas that we hear users express gratitude for are our three sections dedicated to children with special needs: kids' mental health, kids with differences, and the spectrum. There is always a lot of conversation going on in our spectrum section because there are so many families impacted by autism, and families have expressed how helpful it is to have a support community who really “gets it.” Our “kids with differences” section helps parents network and support each as they navigate their child’s journey with “issues” like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), Down syndrome, epilepsy, cancer, and various other issues. One of my favorite videos from this section talks about what moms of kids with issues go through, and it's actually hilarious and spot on. Our mental health conversations have also provided a sense of community and support to parents dealing with self-esteem issues in children, kids and teens who self-injure, and children who experience anxiety or depression. Our users say having this community makes their world seem larger because they are no longer feel so isolated.
Another VProud area I am passionate about is our vibrant military stories section. It is near and dear to my personal heart and to so many of our viewers, including the veterans and military families on our platform. Conversations that have been meaningful in this forum include discussion about post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues, suicide, and assisting homeless veterans. We owe so much to our veterans and it is my hope that our military stories section will be an increasingly valuable resource and support group to these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for their country, and for their honorable families.
VProud is also providing a platform for women across the globe. Two of our contributors in India spoke out on the streets of Mumbai against rape and domestic violence issues in India through a “rap against rape” platform. Their dialogue went viral and they became creators on VProud because they wanted to spread conversations throughout the community. It’s amazing. They are very brave.
We take for granted so much the power we have in the United States to protest and to speak our truths. It is not like that in so many other countries. Afghanistan and Pakistan come to mind where women can get stoned to death and murdered for speaking out. VProud users have been inspired by videos of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai and her work to champion the educational rights of girls in this region and the need for gender equality.
EF: What “best practices” have you drawn upon from your work at Google, AOL, and YouTube to make VProud successful?
Karen Cahn: I learned everything I know about how to build a really interesting digital product from my time at Google, YouTube, and AOL. I feel so fortunate to have “gotten my MBA” at the best brands in digital over the last 15 years. I have watched from the beginning how the user always comes first in the products that they build and learned many best practices. One of these lessons is “just be the platform, don’t be the editor”. In other words, the idea of opening up the platform and letting people have a voice. VProud is about the democratization of conversation. We are not the arbiters of opinion; we just want to provide the technology that allows people to speak their truth. Another best practice I learned was “don’t try to push your ideas on people”. Give them an open platform and let them speak their own truth. Everyone is different. People just want a voice. I definitely drew upon these lessons from my time at Google and YouTube. The final best practice I leaned there is the importance of “creating something scalable” because one day something good is going to happen and lots of people are going to come! So you have to make sure the product works at scale. At VProud we invested so much in our product and its scalability and swiftness. We are now building our iOS and Android apps based on the features that we have seen our users respond to. These are all great lessons learned and implemented at VProud as a result of my time at Google, AOL, and YouTube.
EF: Where do you see VProud going in the next year? Over the next 5 years?
Karen Cahn: VProud has three important new developments we are working on. First, we are working on licensing our software to other websites. Since the launch of VProud, the number one phone call and email question we have received is from parents saying, “Please, when are you starting this for teens?” This has sparked us to move faster on the platform licensing so we can let other websites who already talk to teens take that technology and use it to make a troll free community on their site. That’s our business model. We have made our software useful for other brands. What we are starting to do is go out and talk to websites that already have a teen audience. Our audience is adult women, specifically young and middle age moms, so our website has some mature subject matter. As such, VProud is not appropriate for teens. However, we are excited about licensing our software to other websites who wish to use our troll free model to bring courteous, meaningful information sharing to their platforms as well.
Our second near-term goal is we are rolling out our VProud app for iOS and Android. Users will be able to access VProud via their smart phones and receive notifications. We waited until we had been in existence a full year before we started working on the app because we wanted to have a year of beta testing. So we launched VProud with a web application first so we could see what people were using. Were they commenting? Were they starting conversations? What were they actually doing? We wanted enough data to make an informed decision on what we wanted the app to do since there is only so much space you have. You have to give the functionality that is most important to the user, and now we have that data and are ready to build.
Our third goal is we are working on expanding VProud internationally over the next five years. The global expansion of VProud.tv will involve VProud going in country to places where women don’t typically have a voice.
EF: What would you say to our readers who are inspired by your dream and hard work implementing VProud and are desirous of starting their own business?
I think that if you have a dream to start your own business you should definitely go for it, but do it in your evening and weekend time. Do not quit your day job unless you have enough money in the bank to live without a salary and without any income for three years. Do not quit your day job, do it in your spare time. If it was meant to be, if it’s a real business, it will actually start to take off and you will know exactly when you can quit your day job. But don’t quit your day job until that moment happens. If you have saved and can pay all your bills, support your family, and be comfortable for 3 years (because that’s about how long it takes to get a business up and running ), then great. Go with all your passion. Otherwise, work nights, weekends, holidays, and just do it as a hobby, and if it takes off great. Then you can quit your day job! And then there is nothing risked. Multitask while you are doing your current career. People are spending hours wasting time on Facebook these days, myself included. Get off of Facebook and work on your business!
EF: Everyday Family extends appreciation to VProud CEO and Founder, Karen Cahn, for sharing her expertise and business journey with our readers. We salute the positive impact VProud is making in creating a troll free environment that builds community, inspires, educates, and supports women through life’s challenges. We hope more and more families will find their way to your resources.
Check out VProud today at https://vproud.tv/
What do you think about VProud? What conversation topics are you most interested in? Let us know in the comment section as you start engaging in the VProud community! And remember, information is power. Use it for good!