Secret

Secret co-founder: 'If I were Facebook or Twitter, I would watch closely'

April 10, 2014: 5:00 AM ET

David Byttow, co-founder of the anonymous social app Secret, discusses his company's talks with Facebook.

Secret co-founder David Byttow at the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival on March 8 in Austin, Texas

Secret co-founder David Byttow at the 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival on March 8 in Austin, Texas

FORTUNE -- Earlier this week, it came to light that Facebook was having talks with Secret, a mobile application that lets people share messages anonymously with the contacts on their phone. Rumors quickly surfaced that Facebook (FB) was evaluating whether to acquire the small company, which despite the buzz only officially launched on Jan. 30. Facebook denied the rumors, and Secret founders David Byttow and Chrys Bader-Wechseler remained quiet.

On Wednesday, Byttow stopped by Fortune's offices to talk about building the app that has captured the attention of Silicon Valley's tech community. During a wide-ranging conversation that covered everything from the most popular secrets on the site (people outside of the tech community seem to like to post their age, gender, and salary) to his personal history (at 19, Byttow dropped out of college, collected $400 from his dad, and drove his 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse to California to make videogames), we asked him for his thoughts on how last week's rumor got started.

Here's what he had to say.

Fortune: How did the rumor get started?

Byttow: Honestly, I think someone found out we were talking with people at Facebook, which is true. I talk with people at Twitter [too]. And I guess that set it off. And it's funny -- it picked up as a story, but in a sense, I think, it's interesting. It definitely helps legitimize what we're doing, which is good.

The fact the story landed?

Yes, because it's true there's something very powerful about our platform, and it should not be dismissed. It's much more than gossip, than just an anonymous platform. Over time, that may become more clear.

So were you talking to Facebook because it was offering to acquire you?

I was talking to Facebook because I was interested in figuring out how we could work together.

And did you approach them about having that conversation?

No comment.

I don't mean to put you on the spot.

No worries. I'm used to it.

You said you were talking to Twitter ...

Yeah, look, it's an ecosystem there. I know employees there. We just hired one from Twitter (TWTR). We're always talking, but also keeping things close to our chest. I think most people can't make sense of Secret yet. There's definitely a wait-and-see attitude but there is something there. Honestly, if I were Facebook or Twitter, I would watch closely.

More from Fortune:

  • What's the difference between Whisper and Secret?

    Anonymity is all the rage for mobile applications. Here are two of the hottest -- and what makes them different.

    FORTUNE -- Mobile applications that emphasize anonymous sharing are increasing in popularity, but two reign supreme: Whisper and Secret.

    The former is the more established; the latter is the buzzy up-and-comer. But their appeal is essentially the same: Without revealing their identity, people can quickly post brief messages -- personal thoughts, secrets, questions -- to other people, who also remain MORE

    - Apr 4, 2014 2:55 PM ET
  • How long can you keep a Secret?

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    FORTUNE -- In a scant few days, social media app Secret went from a viral hit to a bona fide phenomenon. Launched just over a week ago, the iOS app allows users to anonymously share notes and photos.

    It's been steadily climbing the App Store rankings, cracking the top 20 in social networking MORE

    - Feb 12, 2014 5:00 AM ET
  • Reporter roughed up by Apple supplier

    Kicked and dragged for taking photos of a Foxconn plant from a public road in China

    Reuters' report Wednesday about the lengths to which Apple (AAPL) and its suppliers will go to guard Steve Jobs' secrets has everything: metal detectors, fingerprint scanners, product head-fakes, lawsuits, multimillion-dollar fines, a suicide, and employees afraid to breathe a word about what they do, even to their wives.

    But the highpoint of the piece is a MORE

    - Feb 17, 2010 6:35 PM ET
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