An astounding 60 percent of employees have been given their walking papers at Yik Yak, a chat app particularly popular among college students. The massive layoff saw the 50-strong startup reduced to a motley crew of 20 on Dec. 8.

Yik Yak Layoff

The recent development has been surprising for tech industry observers because Yik Yak has managed to raise $73.5 million from investors since it began its meteoric rise three years ago.

Its popularity was largely driven by the anonymity that the app offers, which is roughly similar to the service provided by the now-defunct app Secret. Yik Yak users can freely post messages without revealing their identities.

"We recently made some strategic changes at Yik Yak in line with our key areas of focus for the company," Tyler Droll, Yik Yak CEO, said in a TechCrunch interview. "Unfortunately, as part of that we had to make the difficult decision to lay off a portion of the team."

Local Social Networking Strategy

The startup's management is phrasing the layoffs as part of a reorientation strategy. It claims that Yik Yak is now focusing on what it calls as local social networking so positions are currently being shifted around.

Inside sources reveal that those employees retained were mostly engineers, which means the bulk of workers sent packing were likely part of sales and operations.

App development is said to be still continuing, but one should remember that Yik Yak has already failed to get in the top 1,500 most downloaded apps, which means its source of revenue is significantly diminished.

Likely Causes Of Yik Yak Decline

That narrative, however, might not exactly tell the entire story. Reports indicate that the company is now struggling due to a steadily declining user base. App metrics, for example, have found that Yik Yak app downloads these days have decreased by as much as 76 percent when compared to figures posted last year.

The user decline can be attributed to the recent shift away from the model based on anonymity. Starting September, Yik Yak began requiring users to identify themselves by using handles in posted messages.

The app has also sustained criticism due to claims that it has become a tool for bullying and harassment. There are sources that even cite how some schools have been placed on lockdown because of death threats sent using Yik Yak.

There is still no word whether the layoffs would continue in the future but, if the startup's struggles persist and funding starts to ebb, then there may simply be no other viable path forward.

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