How many big tech CEOs do you think manage their own company’s social media channels? Kassandra Pop is a one-woman jack-of-all trades: self-taught coder, badass business owner, puppy mama, PR/social media manager, an actual manager, and honestly just such a boss. We love to see it!
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of her app, Hive: a social media platform that’s been gaining traction over the past couple of weeks, thanks to a TikTok influencer and a One Direction psychic. We had the amazing opportunity to chat with Kassandra, who’s a fellow 1998 baby and an inspiration to our whole team!
Despite all the craziness of the past two weeks, she’s stayed grounded and remained calm in the face of trolls, server crashes, and literally going viral overnight. Kassandra’s bubbly personality and fresh take on entrepreneurial ethos inspired our team to face any challenge we face in the coming years - and we hope her words inspire you as well.
Tell us your story. Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur starting in high school. My favorite show is Criminal Minds, and I’ve always idolized Penelope Garcia -- she’s just a badass coder who’s super bubbly and she inspired my interest in coding. I ended up taking a psychology class in high school, and eventually got my bachelors’ in Psychology in college.
What's the story behind Hive? Why did you create it?
I started Hive 2 years ago, in 2019. It was such an uphill battle! I taught myself how to code in UDEMY - so when I first started, I was learning and coding Hive at the same time.
I kind of created Hive out of spite, haha. I actually used to be a micro-influencer in the makeup industry! Instagram changed their algorithm a couple years ago, from removing the chronological feed to changing what accounts you’re seeing on your explore page. It didn’t seem to be a platform for people anymore, but rather for ads and brands. It just wasn’t fun to post anymore. I wanted to make an app where people can post for fun, feel happy, and feel good using social media again. I really wanted to make users feel seen… it’s not about likes or comments, you can kind of just do whatever you want - no pressure!
What's the biggest challenge you've faced since starting Hive?
When I first started Hive, I didn’t even have a computer to code on. I got an iMac specifically to code Hive on XCode, and the challenge at the time was learning how to code while actually building the app. While I was working on the backend part (the gross, shadowy database place that no one wants to go into), Swift4 had updated into Swift5. I was doing something really small, like changing the color of the following button once you clicked “Follow”… but the language updated as I was doing this, the code stopped working, and it threw off my entire page. I spent hours looking at the code and couldn’t find out what had changed.
I had a breakdown at that time because I was working full-time and in school full-time. Working in the summers was easier, but during the school year, I would get home from school, code, go to work, code again, and then go to sleep at 3 or 4am.
I actually almost gave up during that time. It was really discouraging, but after a week, I tried again and figured it out! That was a hell of a challenge.
Any challenges since the app's blown up?
Honestly, handling trolls has been a big issue since the app’s blown up. People try to bring up dirt about me and my team members… I’ve learned that it’s a matter of being as transparent and concise as possible. The more you say, the worse it could possibly be because people will nitpick at everything. But the less you say, people will wonder why you aren’t responding a certain way. I’m still trying to find that balance, but I think I’ve been doing pretty well!
One of the big topics right now is that I wasn’t a “broke college student” and was secretly rich because I used my dad’s company name to set up the business developer account for Hive on the App Store. People basically thought that just because my dad owned a business, I was automatically a rich kid. I actually was a broke college student though - it’s why I used his company name on the developer account because I couldn’t afford to open my own corporation. People have asked why I didn’t use my dad’s money and it’s like… he just owns a small business and works locally in Southern California; just because someone has a LLC or corporation doesn’t make them magically rich. People then did some research and zeroed in on him donating to the Republican Party back in 2005. I was seven years old, but somehow people were trying to hold me accountable for it. I was a kid and had nothing to do with it, and I didn’t even know he had donated anything until other people brought it to my attention. Regardless of that, I don’t have the same beliefs as him, I consider myself to be very liberal.
I’m surprised at how far people will go to prove that I’m spoiled or racist, and it’s super hard to fight off the herd mentality sometimes. I’m really grateful to my supporters for standing up for me. When I get accusations, I respond once, and then refrain from answering them again and again. I know who I am.
What's your proudest moment in your entrepreneurial journey?
There’s been two moments: The first was our very first launch. We got approved for the App Store, and the fact that something I created was out there for the world to use made me very proud.
A couple weeks ago, we had 15K users. That Monday, I paid a TikTok influencer to post a video about us, and suddenly we increased to 250k people the next few days! I was expecting around 10k more users, since that was what we gained during our first influencer campaign. But this second time, we were gaining so much more! The growth is incredible… I actually did cry, and I’m so happy with how far we’ve come.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned?
Definitely to not be too transparent with people. I love being friends with our users - don’t get me wrong, I really don’t want to be like Twitter or Instagram where they don’t interact with users. While it’s great to answer questions about the app and myself, it was also the catalyst of people pulling information about me and trying to “expose” me. I still want to interact with everyone, but will be less personal in doing so. It wasn’t just me taking a hit -- it was my friends, my dad, and my company. I’ve learned how to balance the line between being personal and transparent as the CEO of a company.
How do you overcome burnout?
Don’t push yourself too hard, even though you want it so bad. Let your goal be your motivation, but don’t let it burn you out. Instead, divide your time in a way where you can manage.
Also, accept help from other people! Let them help! It’s great to be a one-man team, but burnout is real and accepting people’s help is important. My big moment was when I had that breakdown - afterwards, I decided to hire people to help me along the journey. Let what you want be your motivation, don’t let it be your downfall.
Where do you see yourself or Hive in 5 years?
If Instagram can have a decade-long reign, then Hive can as well… especially because we actually listen to users and every update we make is truly to make the user experience better. Further into the future, I would love to explore new avenues for apps, start new business ventures, and learn anything I can.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
The only way you fail is to give up. I did give up on Hive for a week during the one breakdown I had. I was driving around looking at houses, and suddenly thought “I can get there. Hive can get me there.” I decided to go back that very same night and figured out my big coding problem in an hour!
Keep going no matter what anyone tells you. I’ve taken loans for this and people have told me, “What are you doing? Why do you keep going? Nothing is going to come of this. Do you actually think you’ll have a return on it?” And my answer is yes, always yes. Only you have the capacity to make it happen, so believe in it!
Thank you so much to Kassandra for taking the time to speak with us! Super inspirational, and what a sweet person… It's refreshing to see young, female Gen-Zs changing the world with their dreams, no matter how daunting they may seem.
Check out the Hive app and their social channels down below:
- Download on the App Store (and follow @ ninetyeightla while you’re at it!)
- Follow Hive on Twitter
If you know any Gen-Zs doing great things, nominate them to be featured in our upcoming Gen-Z spotlights! Slide into our DMs ;)