Yik Yak shuts down after Square paid $1 million for its engineers

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Yik Yak co-founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington published a farewell note to users on Friday, announcing they would shut down their once-popular anonymous social network this week. The app allowed people to connect with other users within a certain radius, and was widely marketed in and used on college campuses.

According to an SEC filing issued on April 16th, Square, has agreed to hire several of Yik Yak’s employees and acquire a non-exclusive license to some of the company’s intellectual property for $1 million. That’s a deeply disappointing result for a startup that garnered lots of support from venture investors and users.

According to Crunchbase, Yik Yak had raised $73.4 million in venture funding since it was founded in 2013, with a valuation approaching $400 million in 2014, its halcyon days.

The app faced problems that were predictable for any forum offering users anonymity and a means of chatting with one another. It was plagued by cyberbullies of every kind and even banned by some schools. But all the capital and advice in the world couldn’t help it maintain its buzz.

In 2015, Yik Yak had to admit to users that they were only masked from each other, not police officers or other authorities with a warrant. And then in 2016, security researchers with NYU, led by computer scientist and professor Keith Ross, found other ways to hack users’ personally identifiable information out of Yik Yak. Around the same time, their CTO bailed. 

All the while, cyberbullies and unsavory content drove down the app experience for others. By the end of 2016, user downloads had declined 76 percent versus the same period in 2015, as TechCrunch reported then, and the company began laying off most of its employees.

In their note, the co-founders reflected on happier accomplishments by their now-faded startup. Yik Yak is not the first anonymous chat app to hit the deadpool. Secret also went out of business in 2015. And the company won’t be leaving a hole in the market, exactly.

Other chat apps, including anonymous, semi-anonymous and ephemeral options among them, abound. Yik Yak competitors still in business include: Whisper, the anonymous chat and sharing app; Kik, which only requires usernames; Blind, the anonymous workplace chat app where Uber employees have recently aired grievances; and 7 Cups, where people can go for “active, non-judgemental listeners.”