Thank the kids in America for turning Yik Yak into the newest technology craze that’s a parental nightmare and an anonymous messaging juggernaut. Only a year after its launch, the app is now close to closing on roughly $75 million in new financing, according to several sources with knowledge of the company.
With a focus on local and anonymous messaging for college students, Yik Yak has overtaken earlier entrants like Whisper and Secret to become one of the top ten social networking apps in the country, according to the analytics and tracking service App Annie.
In fact, we’d originally heard that the round was going to be in the region of $25 million but that it crept up on the back of the app’s current popularity.
Our sources are close-lipped on who’s leading the new investment, but previous investors include DCM Ventures, which led the seed and Series A round, and individual investors including Tim Draper and Kevin Colleran. Other institutions backing Yik Yak are Atlanta Ventures, Azure Capital Partners, the Chinese social networking site RenRen, and Vaizra Investments. One source says there may also be strategic investors involved in this round.
Unlike its more confessional counterparts, Yik Yak feels like an anonymous shout into the campus quad; with everything from random thoughts on teachers, students and student life, to requests to hook up or get hooked up. It’s now on roughly 1300 campuses and counting. It’s even spawned a doppelganger.
Ultimately, founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington want the company to be more than just the campus town crier. One of their ambitions is to turn the service into a hyper-local news source. The company even launched new tools last month that nudge it in that direction.
Even as it launches new services to try to expand its reach, Yik Yak has kept its attention on its core audience: college students. Most recently, the company staged a bus tour promoting the app on the West Coast.
Some have celebrated the app’s simplicity as part of the reason for its stickiness, but Yik Yak has also relied on a lot of guerrilla marketing techniques to grow its user base. The company selects student reps that are already avid users of the app to spread the word. “The way we chose them are the people who have the biggest Yak Karma score,” said Buffington in an October interview. Yak Karma ratings are a point system that is based on how many posts and other activity users have in the app. Neither Buffington nor Droll responded to a request for comment about the financing.
Yik Yak was launched by Buffington and Droll last November at the ripe old age of 23, after they’d graduated from Furman University. The app began taking off in the Spring as colleges swung into full gear. The explosion of the app has drawn comparisons to Facebook, which saw similar success among the college crowd before going mainstream.
And like Facebook, Yik Yak has been hit with bullying complaints. For what it’s worth, the criticism Yik Yak faces is no different from what other social networks faced when they were getting off the ground. On apps, as on the internet, dumb people will say dumb things.
The Atlanta-based company has actually made good-faith efforts to curb the darker side of the teen- and post-teenage wasteland. It instituted geo-fencing options for districts in March to block middle schoolers and high schoolers from accessing the app on campus, and both Buffington and Droll point to the site’s strict moderating rules as a way of limiting bullying on the site.
Indeed, while Yik Yak today is putting most of its marketing efforts into building up users at colleges, the aim is to make the service used by more than just this group. “We designed it so that it will work anywhere,” said Droll. “Whether you’re a post grad in a new city, or you’re traveling. It’ll tell you what’s happening.”