Bill Gurley is a partner at Benchmark Capital who is on the board of $US3 billion Uber and whose firm invested in Snapchat.
One hot consumer trend he isn’t hot on: Anonymity.
Lately, anonymous apps like Secret and Whisper have emerged with a lot of funding and strong usage metrics. Whisper, an app that lets users post short messages to strangers without their names attached, said it neared 3 billion monthly pageviews in December and the average user checks the app about 8 times per day. Secret is an app that’s similar to Whisper; it recently raised a $US10 million round of financing.
Despite the impressive user stats — which usually attract investors — Gurley thinks anonymous apps could be “false positives.”
His reasoning: When they aren’t hosting mean, nasty content, anonymous social networks typically turn into self-help platforms. And what advertiser wants to be around a bunch of thoughts about suicide and depression?
“I think it’s going to be really hard to monetise,” Gurley said in a meeting last week, noting that the apps are breaking out the same way Snapchat did. “I haven’t felt any anxiety because we aren’t in the one or two companies. I think there’s potential that they are a false positive.”
Fred Wilson, a New York venture capitalist whose firm has invested in companies like Twitter and Tumblr, isn’t sure what the future holds for anonymous apps. As part of a longer interview, Wilson told Business Insider he feels the trend is a reaction to Facebook. Eventually the public’s attention will shift to something else — just like any other fad.
“I think a lot of what we’re seeing is a reaction to Facebook and how Facebook was so dominant as a social platform for the past 5-10 years,” says Wilson. “The things that Facebook forced you to do — to use your real name, to post something publicly that everybody could see…these are things that people ultimately had a bad reaction to.
“I think all of this might just be a phase we’re going through…I think the public mood shifts, I think that a lot of it was the Facebook model was the dominant model for a long time and I think a lot of people are now interested in these other models. I like to think [trends like anonymous apps] will have their run and then there’ll be something else.”
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