Shh. Secret Raises $10M At A $50M Valuation


The buzzy new app Secret — which lets people post messages to their circles of contacts without attribution — has closed a $10 million round of funding at a $50 million post-money valuation, TechCrunch has learned from two sources close to the situation. The funding was led by Google Ventures, with participation also from KPCB.

The news follows a report from Friday in the WSJ, which noted the company was in the process of raising a round of money. It accurately reported the potential backers and funding amount at a $40 million pre-money valuation; we’ve learned that post-money valuation is $50 million, and that the term sheets have already been signed.

It’s a healthy sum of money and valuation for a relative newcomer.

Secret launched at the end of January — amid a rush of many other apps like Whisper, Wickr, Confide, Telegram, and more — some of which were inspired to protect users from the sneaky ways of the NSA, some of which are catching on to a bigger trend for more user privacy.

Secret is currently only available on iOS in the U.S. and Canada. So far its highest ranking was on February 7, when it reached No. 16 in the social networking category (130 overall), according to App Annie. As of March 8, its ranking in social networking stands at 81 (1,143 overall).

Co-founded by David Byttow and Chrys Bader-Wechseler (respectively with Square and Google pedigrees behind them), the idea behind the app, as Byttow has explained it in the past, was to create a forum where people can feel free to speak their minds about one thing or another that a social network with more identification and accountability like Facebook or Twitter may hinder*, for fun but maybe also just to get a point across. Anonymous feedback, in other words.

In its current form, Secret has captured the attention of early adopters/tech enthusiasts. But that hasn’t always been in the most positive light, with false rumors and not a small dose of slander among more salacious, frank, funny and mundane posts. Honesty may be the best policy, but when you don’t have to put your name to it, is it the policy all of us will always follow?

The startup has had a boost of attention in the last few days around the SXSW confab in Austin, possibly because people have been actively hunting around for the next big thing à la Foursquare and Twitter’s coming-out parties of years past, but possibly just because of new features. Secret added social sharing and nearby gossip to the app, as well as an online message board dedicated to SXSW that anyone can access (the illustration for this post, with a picture of Byttow on stage at SXSW, comes from that board).

Taken together, the three additions are early signs of how Secret is already starting to branch out from more closed beginnings focused primarily around your own contacts. Location-based gossip, cross-posting to other networks and theme-based boards all point to other ways that Secret may not only build up conversations and interest groups, but (in my opinion) also potential commercialising opportunities.

In Byttow’s on-stage interview on Saturday with TC’s Josh Constine, the Secret CEO mentioned a couple of key points that are also worth remembering as we watch the app evolve. Currently only around 10%-20% of Secret users are creating content, and that anonymous may mean without a name attached to it, but it “doesn’t mean untraceable.”

In other words, we are in very early days of seeing how this evolves, and even if it looks on some level like the anti-Facebook, it’s still following some of the rules of social engagement we have seen elsewhere.

And even if it feels a bit like the Wild West right now, is that bound to change? Byttow says that already there is an effort to “quarantine” certain posts (similar to how commenting system Livefyre lets moderators “Bozo” posts so that a user thinks they are live, but actually no one else can see them), and lewd content gets taken down — although there is a grey area here, apparently.

Still, you can’t help but wonder when and if consumer interest, commercial focus and potential litigiousness may collide.

Both Google Ventures and Kleiner Perkins also invested in Secret’s $1.43 million seed round, alongside Initialized Capital (the JV formed by Y-Combinator partners Alexis Ohanian, Harj Taggar and Garry Tan); SV Angel; Index Ventures; S-Cubed; Brett Slatkin; Harry Cheung and Fuel Capital.

* Yes, Facebook is moving away from insisting on real-world names, and Twitter has a long history of accounts not associated with specific people, but the idea here is that Secret lets you keep a connection to your circle of contacts — based on names in your phone’s contacts — without your identity attached to it. If you create an “anonymous” account on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll have to forge a group of followers without the crutch of a preexisting social graph.

Secret declined to comment for this story.

Updated to clarify the post- and pre-money valuations.

More TechCrunch

Ahead of the AI safety summit kicking off in Seoul, South Korea later this week, its co-host the United Kingdom is expanding its own efforts in the field. The AI…

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

8 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

2 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities