For the most part, anonymous chat apps have been a bust.
Secret famously shut down in 2015 and Yik Yak closed just last month, reportedly selling itself in an acqui-hire to Square for about $US3 million.
But one such app, Blind, just raised $US6 million to expand, including participation from DCM Ventures, a VC that backed Yik Yak.
Blind is different in that it’s for employees, more like Slack than YikYak. It’s the mobile app equivalent of the office water cooler where employees share scuttlebutt on everything from job openings to layoffs to how they feel about their company’s management and culture.
For instance, after former engineer Susan Fowler’s shocking tell-all of alleged sexual harassment at Uber, employees at Uber flocked to Blind to talk about their own experiences. Uber was not happy and even went so far as block the app from its internal network, Blind’s head of operations Alex Shin told Business Insider. But after Business Insider reported on that, Uber reversed course and started allowing employees to access it again.
Blind makes sure that the people using the app are employees by validating their work email addresses. While you can’t gain access to Blind unless you work at a company where Blind is available, it also offers a part of the app where employees from any company can talk to each other.
Uber employees aren’t the only ones wanting to anonymously chat. The app has become popular for Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo employees, and is used by about one-quarter of the workforces at Glassdoor, Pinterest, and Lyft, the company says. All told, it is available at about 150 tech companies including Automattic, Docker, Medium, WeWork, Qualtrics, and Zuora.
Time will tell if Blind can buck the trend to survive and thrive. But many companies these days actively try to manage their corporate image by forbidding employees to discuss their workplaces, often bundling in non-disparagement agreements into an employment contract. Human nature being what it is, folks still want to talk, and perhaps that’s enough of an opportunity for Blind.