One Of The World's Smartest Investors Thinks Anonymous Apps Like Whisper And Secret Are Fads That Won't Make Money

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?

Whisper startup secretsWhisperWhisper and Secret have a lot of sad posts on them. Whisper even works with local authorities when suicidal posts crop up on its app. If they plan to monetise with ads, what advertiser wants to be around sad content?

“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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