That Secret App Is Becoming Silicon Valley's New Blind Item

"I work at Evernote and we're about to get acquired... Watch this space" That could be the first big acquisition rumor to have found its way onto Secret, the new "anonymish" sharing app launched late last week. But it won't be the last. (FWIW, Evernote CEO Phil Libin says it's not true. And Dustin Curtis claims he's the one who posted it.) Forget about the passive-aggressive personal attacks that have found their way onto the app for a second. The real fascinating aspect, for me, is in determining how true that acquisition rumor is. And, true or not, who stands to gain by floating it. Secret, by design, obscures the identity of the people who post there -- but only to a point. Based on your address book, the app tells you whether something was posted by a friend, or a friend of a friend, or if it simply became popular and thus is available for all to see. In that case, it can tells you the location of the person who posted it. And if posted by a "friend," it then becomes a guessing game as to who you might know that posted something. In the last couple of days since launch, Secret has been graced with a slew of juicy tidbits from apparent insiders, relating the dark underbelly of the startup ecosystem. And those tidbits are causing some of us to do the mental guessing games associated with the typical blind items you might find in the tabloids. I may have made a $100 million mistake. The author of that Secret follows up in the thread to say that he "let moral obligations from my LPs get in the way" and he should have invested personal money into a startup. That he didn't actually have the money from LPs on hand yet, but decided not to invest out of consideration for them anyway. This causes me to think about which investors have recently raised funds, but could have made an investment in some hot new startup over the last few years. And which of those investors are in my circle of friends. If the boards of my last 2 companies let me sell when we had offers, those sales would be worth more than $1B now and I'd be hailed as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in SV. Instead I'm now [someone] that you ask, 'what are you working on these days?' For those of us who have been following the space for a while, it's probably not difficult to narrow this one down: Serial entrepreneur with acquisition rumors floating about but never quite sold. Also in my friend circle. I know a startup CEO that illegally inflated numbers to raise a huge round of funding from a tier 1 VC. A commenter in that thread asks, "Does it rhyme with S'moreScare?"* I have to be so positive in my public VC life now, I'm afraid that all I can offer Secret is my pent up rage. And that's probably not good for Secret. Investor with public good guy attitude who has a dark side he doesn't want to show? Ok, maybe that one will be tougher to narrow down. But the real "secret" to the app is that you can't know what's true and what's not, who it came from and why. All of which calls to mind another post I saw on Secret just a few minutes ago: You could really fuck with journalists on here. The author of that Secret could also be Curtis. But the truth is, I'll never know. == * I'm ashamed to admit that I was too dense to catch which company was being referenced at first. Alexia laughed at me.
Ryan Lawler

Ryan Lawler is a Writer at Gigabuzz, focused on covering early-stage startups, especially those with a technology focus and great perks.

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