Most new companies would do just about anything to be featured on the front page of the New York Times. That’s where Yik Yak found itself on March 9, but something tells me they didn’t pay a P.R. firm for the placement. To get an idea about the tone of the article, take a look at the caption under the photo below.
Yik Yak is a Twitter-like app that has two prominent distinctions. First, it’s anonymous. Second, it works in a very limited geographic region – meaning it’s local. It was created in late 2013 by Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, who were fraternity brothers at Furman University in South Carolina. Mr. Droll’s parents provided the original funding, and also the name. On occasion, it has been among the top ten downloads on Apple’s app store.
Like Facebook, Yik Yak started on college campuses, originating at the alma mater of the founders. But because posts are anonymous, it has the potential to cause a lot of harm, as the Times article points out repeatedly. One professor at Eastern Michigan University is quoted as saying ‘I have been defamed, my reputation besmirched. I have been sexually harassed and verbally abused. I am about ready to hire a lawyer.’
Against this background, Yik Yak closed a $62 million round of funding from Sequoia Capital last November. BTW, the app is free, and doesn’t generate any revenue. It makes one wonder, why would anyone put millions behind this? Is it just the latest example of the new tech bubble and ill-considered investing? It is kind of hard to imagine advertisers lining up behind a website loaded with snarky comments, so where’s the revenue potential?
So here’s a question for you, gentle reader: Is the Times article a good thing or a bad thing for the new brand? Certainly it points to the inherent risks in the idea. But it also provides a whole new level of visibility for something most people had never heard of, until now.
Does the news and brand awareness value outweigh the negative tone of the piece? What do you think?