[THE INVESTOR] Anonymous chatting app Blind has been unexpectedly thrust into the limelight in the US information technology sector amid a series of controversies surrounding US ridesharing company Uber in recent weeks.
A number of Uber employees have flocked to Blind after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti wrote in her blog post about her sexual harassment experience and discriminatory behavior at the ridesharing company.
The recent exodus of Uber’s top executives, including former President Jeff Jones, has also driven Uber employees to join the anonymous app to discuss the leadership and other issues of the firm.
Although TeamBlind, the operator of the anonymous chatting app, refused to give the exact number of Uber employees on the app, the figure is estimated to have increased to more than 3,000 -- out of the entire 11,000 Uber employees -- during recent weeks.
Their activities have risen threefold although the Silicon Valley-based firm has allegedly blocked access to the Blind app, according to the Seoul-based startup.
“Anonymous Uber employees have reported that Uber seems to have cut access to the app in office,” said TeamBlind co-founder and CEO Jung Young-joon, adding that blocking a certain mobile service on the Wi-Fi network is technically possible but the Korean startup cannot verify that Uber has actually done it.
“If the claims are true, Uber will be the only company that has attempted to block employees’ access to Blind.”
The anonymous chatting app allows employees within the same company and the same industry to communicate with each other.
Access to the app is granted only to those who confirm where they actually work through their company email accounts.
Among 100 US tech companies active on the chatting service are Microsoft, LinkedIn, Amazon, Google and Facebook. Around 20-30 percent of employees from most of the large tech firms are using the Blind app.
Employees from Apple, for which confidentiality is often the highest priority, are on the chatting app even though the number is relatively smaller compared to other tech giants.
Around 20,000 Samsung Electronics employees are said to be using the app.
Within the anonymous and exclusive channels of the app, users gossip, spill beans and discuss both serious and trivial subjects, such as salary and dating advice. Users can also conduct a simple survey on the app.
For security and privacy reasons, the TeamBlind employees and developers are not allowed to see individual posts or track users on the app. Only posts flagged several times by other users as inappropriate or offensive can be reported to TeamBlind and removed after review. Those who keep posting abusive posts can be kicked off the app.
The anonymous message board service has gained popularity in Korea since 2014 as employees at conglomerates use the app to vent their stress and frustration at work and it now runs private communities for more than 1,500 Korean companies.
The so-called “nut rage” incident, in which the heiress of Korean Air berated a flight attendant for serving nuts in a bag instead of on a plate and delayed the flight schedule, helped the chatting app get more attention and become a place for candid conversations and raw criticism about workplaces.
On the back of the steady and stable growth in Korea, TeamBlind is now focusing on business expansion in the US.
“Considering the dynamic factors of the US business landscape -- a high turnover rate, rapidly-growing startups, such as Uber, and frequent large-scale M&As, like Microsoft acquiring LinkedIn, there will be a lot of things to be discussed on Blind,” Jung said.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)