Yik Yak, once valued at $400 million, shuts down and sells off engineers for $1 million

Photo: Yik Yak

Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging app for college students, announced today that it would finally be shutting down. The app first launched back in 2014 as a way to discreetly communicate with others nearby, and it took off quickly for its gossip-centric role in American universities. Along the way, the team scooped up $73.5 million in venture capital funding. With today’s closure and an accompanying SEC filing issued last week, we’ve learned that mobile payments company Square looted Yik Yak for its engineering talent and some minor intellectual property to the tune of just $1 million. At one point, investors valued Yik Yak at $400 million.

“The time has come... for our paths to part ways, as we’ve decided to make our next moves as a company,” co-founders Brooks Buffington Tyler Droll write in a blog post on the company’s website. “To that end, we’ll begin winding down the Yik Yak app over the coming week as we start tinkering around with what’s ahead for our brand, our technology, and ourselves.”

The app’s rise, its failed pivot to group messaging, and its eventual fall is quite emblematic of the anonymous messaging trend and its quite death. These apps took off around 2014 and largely rode to popularity based on college-aged users dishing out secrets and being cruel to one another under the protection of anonymity. These businesses, though sporting promising user growth, never seemed to grow large enough to sustain themselves. Other anonymous apps, like Secret and Formspring, went out of business back in 2015.

Yik Yak, to its credit, lasted longer than most. It had its fair share of trouble along the way, most notably an ill-fated attempt to force users into adopting a permanent handle that would be attached to every post. After months of sliding user numbers and fading relevance, Yik Yak laid off around 60 percent of its staff in December of last year. Yik Yak also earned attention, and school-wide bans, from college campus officials when it was used to make threats and became a hotbed for abuse and harassment.

To be fair, the anonymous messaging trend isn’t completely over. Back in February, North Carolina man named Garrett Grimsley was arrested for making what looked a lot like a threat of public violence on the app Whisper. Police requested the user’s IP address, which Whisper stores and hands over to law enforcement, and Grimsely was promptly arrested and charged with transmitting a threat over interstate commerce.

Comments

I don’t think the market alone killed Yik Yak… Yik Yak killed Yik Yak.

Agreed. I mean it was all fun and games for like a year for me. After I deleted it, there was no way I was coming back.

I used it in college no more than a month.

I had never heard of this until it was mentioned in an episode of Dear White People. This is the second time I’ve ever seen it mentioned and it was to announce the service’s closure. Sooo….

You guys should check out the Canadian app Chillabit. It seems to be doing well and has some clever features that make it more interesting. For instance, all posts are anonymous, but comments use your Facebook name and profile picture. There’s also a matching system where you can like other users, and if you match you can chat. You need an email from one of the supported campuses though.

There’s a typo !

Yes , there is !

to be fair to formspring, it managed to limp along for 3 years beyond its peak popularity and was around for 6 years; yikyak didn’t even manage two and a half lmao

You can get a dog turd valued at $400M by investors in the Bay Area – yeah, I know, this was Greenville, so maybe the dog turd is only worth $100M to VCs.

The real genius is in knowing when to sell, and Yik Yak should have seen the writing on the wall years ago, but were drinking their own koolaid. I sold my dog turd to Yahoo ( a company that’s very bad about knowing when to sell, and what to buy) and of course they had no idea what to do with it and after three years and dumping another $50M into it they just flushed it. Which was a real tragedy, because if you’re talking dog turds or Yahoo, obviously the dog turd has more value to society.

Europe has a similar app Jodel. Better design imo.

"Yik Yak, an anonymous messaging app for college middle and high school students"

College students tried it, actually. Just didn’t remain relevant longer than a few months on most campuses.

"The time has come… for our paths to part ways, as we’ve decided to make our next moves as a company," ,,, I don’t think the market alone

How can they ‘sell’ their engineers to Square? Indentured servants?

How did you guess?!

Contracts. Just like sportsball players.

It died for good when the entire premise of the app – anonymous posting without even having to register a user name – was replaced by mandatory use of a handle.

I mean, come on. Why get rid of the one thing that differentiates your platform?

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