Replaced By A Man At Snapchat, Tech Pioneer Launched Her Own Storytelling App For Womxn

Imagine being headhunted to work at a new social media platform when you are barely finishing college, and become an integral part in taking this platform from a scrappy startup to a global phenomenon, only to be replaced a few years later by an older man. This is the story of so many women in numerous industries, and certainly for tech founder Chloe Drimal.

At age 22, Snapchat hired the Yale senior as the company’s 14th employee where she helped grow the company from a scrappy startup to an IPO. She was the architect behind the “Our Stories” product and led a team of 80. But, after two years, Chloe was replaced in her role by an older man and was bounced from project to project, making her feel very alone.

By opening up with female strangers who had been through similar experiences, she realized the healing power of storytelling and left Snapchat to create social wellness app Yoni Circle. It allows womxn all over the world to join live 60-minute moderated storytelling sessions with five other womxn called Circles to connect more deeply with themselves and others. In beta testing since April 2020, the free app has now opened its community to the general public and already has members across 1,000 cities and 80 countries. The team is backed with funding from angels like Rent the Runway co-founder Jenny Fleiss and Mirror founder and CEO Brynn Putnam.

We spoke with Chloe to learn about the growth and impact of Yoni Circle, her thoughts today on being unceremoniously replaced at Snapchat, and the significance of having more female-funded tech investments.

Tell us about your background in tech and how you landed at Snapchat at 22, right out of college. 

I was a bi-weekly columnist for my daily newspaper my Senior year of college — mainly writing about whatever moved me that week. In December 2012 I wrote an article titled Snapchat: The Phenomenon. It caught a bit of virality and the founding team at Snap, which was about five employees, sent me a Snap; it was a picture of themselves with the caption “Thank you Chloe, you get us — Team Snapchat”. I snapped back and eventually asked to meet with them while I was in Los Angeles. It was more out of curiosity and fandom than looking for a job. But, after spending time with them, I had a job offer and started in June as the 14th employee. 

You were an integral part of taking the company to become the success everyone knows but was replaced by an older man. Can you walk us through what happened and how it made you feel? 

I was technically replaced by three older men 🙂

During my second and third year at SnapChat, I helped to create and then ultimately ran the Our Story product, which was where we would geo-fence a location, like a music festival, cultural event, or city, so that a Snapchatter in that location could submit a Snap. We would then curate those Snaps into a cohesive multi-perspective, diverse narrative of the event or place. 

I really fell in love with this product and feel so grateful I got to virtually travel the world through strangers’ intimate Snaps. I loved putting my headphones on and getting completely lost in other worlds while I curated stories — I saw in such a deep way that no matter where we live or what we look like we are so much more similar than we are different.

I eventually built out the Our Story team from myself to a team of 80. Overtime, we had three global stories a day, with many earning over 40 million views in 24 hours. We also had a presence on 80 college campus stories and nine local cities. 

Then, I was replaced. It was a week after my 25th birthday. At the time, it didn’t feel good and was a shock to the system. But now at 30, I understand why the decisions were made, that my story is one of many, and am grateful for the deep healing journey it sent me on and that it led me to Yoni Circle. 

By sharing your personal story and connecting with other women who have been through similar situations, it led you to create your own app centered around social wellness. Can you tell us about Yoni Circle and how you hope it will help more users? 

Listening to strangers’ stories while also sharing my own was essential to my healing process, so I knew it could help others. When we start to listen to others’ stories and are validated for our own, we realize that our stories are one of many and that the human experience is shared. Through this exchange of stories, life gets easier. It gets easier to be our true selves, easier to be less scared of the things that oppress us (both internally and externally), and easier to grow and support others’ growth without fear of competition. And the more we grow together, the better the world will be. 

After working on the Our Story product, I began to work on many different one-off creative projects. This allowed me to work with a lot of people outside of SnapChat, which led to a lot of the stories that healed me. While I was doing this, I created the internal women’s group for SnapChat alongside another amazing woman. I ended my time at SnapChat running women’s initiatives before leaving in November of 2017 to embark on creating Yoni Circle. 

I knew I wanted to create a social media platform that healed and connected women through storytelling, but I didn’t know what it looked like. In January 2018, I started hosting “Yoni Circle Salons” out of my apartment in Venice, California. The core of the experience was a storytelling circle. Soon I was finding myself holding circles twice a week and began to train community members to be Salonnieres (hosts of circles). The more I held and participated in circles, the more I could visualize the app in my mind. In April of 2020, we launched in beta mode and now have officially opened it up to the public 

The Yoni Circle ( app is part active (Storytelling Circles) and part passive (Yoni Radio). Storytelling Circles allow members to join 60-minute moderated live-virtual video chat sessions, with five other womxn. These Storytelling Circles are moderated and led by a Salonniere, who starts as an active member of the Yoni Circle community and then is trained to host Circles. 

During the Circle, the Salonniere guides the group through introductions, breathing exercises, and a storytelling prompt based on a specific theme. Participants take turns sharing from the heart and listening to each other’s stories. Members leave feeling lighter and more connected to themselves and the world around them.

Those who participate in a Circle can choose to record their stories to be either private or public-facing on their Yoni Circle profile. We then curate public facing stories to highlight on our home screen so members who may not be able to devote time to do Circles daily or even weekly can still find healing through storytelling in a passive way. We are hard at work to develop the Yoni Radio product more deeply as well as other asynchronous products, so our community can heal and connect through stories on their own time. 

How has COVID-19 impacted the use of the app, and how are people connecting digitally even more today? 

The need for more social interactions (especially with strangers) has played a role in driving demand for Yoni Circle, and our public launch comes at a time when it’s never been more crucial to connect deeply with others around the world. But we also believe we’ve created an incredibly unique experience that will be desired even when the pandemic has passed. 

Already, our community spans 1,000 cities and over 85 countries. Many members have made Yoni Circle an essential component of their regular self-care rituals, attending Circles monthly, weekly or even daily. We also have many new features planned for the coming months and are excited about our community’s future. 

One of the coolest aspects of the Yoni Circle story is the funding you received from female investors! With such a small percentage of funding going to female founders, can you talk about the significance of more female-funded tech investments? 

Yoni Circle is very fortunate to have backing from some fantastic investors. We’re so thankful for their support, especially given the many challenges faced by women trying to raise funding. And I’m deeply thankful for the women who helped push the deal forward and continue to support me as I navigate the VC world. 

While strides are being made, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to elevate female founders and create more equity during the fundraising process. Doing so will help establish a brighter future for women founders to access resources and funding to succeed and scale. 

How can Yoni Circle be an important support tool for people’s mental health at work and at home, especially while so many of us are still very isolated from each other? 

Research shows that connecting through shared experiences is a way we can cope in a time of crisis. Stories help us understand that we are not alone and are part of a community sharing the same stresses, concerns, fears, and joys. By listening and speaking from the heart, our members can often heal and connect in a more intimate way.

While Yoni Circle is not directly focused on addressing psychological issues, participating in storytelling Circles has the power to uplift members the same way that group therapy does. Many of our members join Circles as an act of self-care. After each Circle, you feel lighter, empowered, and more at peace. 

We also believe that Yoni Circle helps break down stigmas surrounding mental health in impacted communities and can serve as a turning point to those who may be hesitant in seeking mental health treatment. We look at storytelling Circles as part therapeutic, part entertainment. But it’s important to note that this experience is not therapy and our Salonnieres are storytellers, not therapists. 

What is it about storytelling that has become such a powerful tool for connection today? 

Social media and social networking have evolved so quickly in light of the pandemic, especially with the launch of different social audio apps like Clubhouse. But I believe we’ve carved out something completely different with the launch of Yoni Circle, which is why it’s resonating so strongly with our members. 

At Yoni Circle, we provide a digital space to be authentic without opinions or judgment. We welcome everyone as they are and encourage our members to be their true selves. This belief reminds us how connected we are around the world and how our shared experiences help us better understand each other. 

With so much hate, discrimination, misinformation, and performative content on social media today, I believe many people, especially women, desire a social platform that provides an intimate space for them to be vulnerable. The stories I share during Circles, I would never share on Clubhouse or another social platform. But that’s why we’ve been so focused on growing our community carefully. I know we’ll have tens of millions of users one day, but we don’t want to get there at the expense of our members, whose privacy and safety are our top priority as we grow. 

Finally, what makes you a powerful woman? 

I think my biggest strengths are my vulnerability and my creativity that I channel through my vulnerability. 

You can join the global storytelling movement by downloading Yoni Circle via the Apple Store HERE.

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