Yik Yak, the anonymous social media app company has raised $1.5 million in seed funding for its "hyper-local" chatting app, which controversially grew popular with school kids, leading to several bannings due to cyberbullying, drawing national headlines.
Founded by two Furman University students, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, Yik Yak was originally intended as a message board-like service for college campuses, allowing users to post short missives which can be viewed by anyone in a 1.5 mile radius. But shortly after its launch just a few months ago, the app was picked up by a number of middle schoolers and high school kids, who took advantage of Yik Yak for anonymous bullying, as it turned out.
Yik Yak reacted to the growing bullying problem on the service by implementing geo-fences around all nearly all U.S. middle and high schools using third-party location data. This blocked the app from functioning on school grounds, effectively shutting down access to these younger students who were, until then, the largest demographic on Yik Yak. They also rated the app 17-plus on the App Store, allowing parents to block downloads using the iPhone's built-in parental controls.
Droll says that implementing the geo-fences didn't decrease Yik Yak user numbers. "However, geo-fencing did cause a decrease in bullying which is exactly what we intended for it to accomplish," he says. "We feel that high school students are psychologically less mature than college students and are more likely to use anonymity irresponsibly, which is why we took the proactive method to deter high school students from ever getting hooked on Yik Yak."
With the new investment, the team of just two will be expanded to include developers, a UI/UX designer and marketing professional. The funding will also be used to expand backend infrastructure, expand into new office space, and fund Yik Yak's marketing strategy.