Application for anonymous questions and answers NGL climbed to the top of the App Store deceiving its users with questions allegedly sent by their friends and charging for useless clues as to who allegedly wrote those messages. But many of the questions users get don’t come from real people; they are auto-generated — the idea, according to a new lawsuit, is NGL’s main competitor, application maker Sendit, now alleging that the NGL maker stole other sensitive business information.
In a complaint filed July 1, 2022 in the California Supreme Court, Sendit’s creator, Iconic Hearts Holdings, Inc. (formerly known as FullSenders), alleges that NGL obtained its trade secrets “improperly” as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty, Raj Veer, Instagram Software Engineer, who worked on Sendit on the side.
For those not following teen app trends, Sendit and NGL are the leading anonymous Q&A apps, a subgroup of social apps. currently popular with young people. Apps top the app store charts for months, like anonymous apps usually do, before they explode intimidation, lawsuits, or get banned the app stores themselves.
NGL is currently ranked fifth among free (non-gaming) apps in the US App Store. Since launching at the end of last year, the company brought in over $2.4 million in revenue, third party estimates. Sendit apps are currently ranked 12th on social media (Sendit) and 57th on social media (Sendit – Q&A on Instagram) and have earned over $11 million. for data from the Sensor Tower.
Both Sendit and NGL allow users to post links to their social accounts, such as Instagram or Snapchat Stories, which friends can click on to submit anonymous questions. (Count: “Who are you in love with?” and other teenage gossip.)
The recipient, in turn, receives the questions in the app’s inbox and can then post their answer on their social media accounts for everyone to see. Apps monetize this activity by offering “hints” to their users about the person asking the questions so they can find out who asked what.
While NGL only focuses on anonymous questions and answers, Sendit offers two flavors of its service. Its original app is designed for Snapchat users and offers many games in addition to the anonymous Q&A feature. Meanwhile, his new app provides anonymous Q&A on Instagram. It was launched after Snapchat introduced stricter rules earlier this year to prevent anonymous apps from using its developer tools. (Sendit got extension for alignment with these politicians, Snapchat told us.)
However, the apps are causing problems as they have been shown to use deceptive tactics to trick their young users into thinking they are getting engagement from friends when they are not.
Both apps are also incredibly similar, including in their visual design, how they work, their business model, and more.
As it turned out, this could not be an accident.
A recent Iconic Hearts lawsuit (see below) states that the company hired Veer to develop Sendit’s mobile apps back in September 2018. After that, Veer continued to advise the company, the report said. In May 2021, Iconic Hearts began negotiations with Veer to offer him a full-time position or allow him to continue as a contractor. But instead of taking a job, Veer took the ideas and insights from the company and used them to create his own version of the Sendit app, the complaint explains.
“Vir was an integral part of the founding, creation and launch of NGL – Anonymous Questions and Answers, an application that is almost identical to the Sendit applications and directly competes with them,” the document says. It also details how Veer used his friendship with Iconic Hearts founder Hunter Rice and his role as a developer and consultant for Sendit to get information about the company and its applications. (Apparently, Rice and Veer weren’t just business colleagues, they were friends—former classmates brought together after college by their shared interest in technology, notes in paperwork.)
While Veer was working on the Sendit apps, he had access to insider information such as which features were getting the most attention from users and other plans for the future, the lawsuit says. He also signed an agreement with the developer that forbids him from using this information for any other purpose than his work with Sendit apps, the report said.
Rice believes that Veer never took the job offered to him seriously at Iconic Hearts, the complaint continues, but instead used his permanent access to create NGL, a copy of Sendit that launched in late 2021 on the App Store and soon became #1 app on the App Store in June 2022.
The application explains how Vir gained access to the application’s detailed data, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and other metrics designed to ensure the success of the application. Due to his relationship with Sendit, Veer requested and accessed all kinds of business data and metrics such as click through rate, conversion rate, what tips were most effective, how they were ordered to generate virality, call to action button placement, financial metrics, MRR (monthly recurring income), churn rate, LTV (lifetime value), metrics related to average response rate, number of shares, viral ratios and more.
Among these business details was Sendit’s use of fake questions. The company has previously denied using bots when asked by TechCrunch about it.
Many users of the Sendit and NGL apps already suspected that some of the questions they received were not actually from their friends but were automatically generated. App stores are filled with testimonials from users who claim that these apps scam them and then rip them off by charging you for useless hints, such as those that only tell you the user’s city or phone type.
TechCrunch also recently tested NGL and Sendit’s anonymous question and answer system. generating a link for questions, but then not showing it to anyone, and yet receiving half a dozen so-called “questions from friends” in their mailboxes.
This feature is actually detailed in the new lawsuit as one of the many aspects of the Sendit apps that NGL allegedly stole. Reading the complaint:
Iconic Hearts also developed a unique “Engagement Messages” system that sends content to the inbox if there has been no user interaction for a certain period of time. The “participation message” re-encourages the user to use the app. This creates more “sharing” in the app, more density in the user trend network (i.e. more people share more times), which increases app saturation, the most important indicator of success and growth. It took Iconic Hearts years of trial and error, testing, and iteration of their product to optimize their own engagement message system and its various components, such as the optimal time period after which to send an engagement message, the way the engagement message is received. push, interaction message design, and interaction message content.
This section essentially confirms users’ suspicions of fake questions. We also have to think that this is now putting the burden on the app stores, as neither company reveals to their users that these “engagement messages” are not being sent by their friends, as the app’s description might lead them to believe.
Surprisingly, Iconic Hearts was unaware of Veer’s betrayal until recently. The complaint states that even in June 2022, Veer concealed his involvement with the NGL. The lawsuit alleges that Veer finally admitted his involvement with Rice on June 21, 2022, saying:ok, I’ll clear things up. I’ve been lying to your face all this time. I’m building NGL.” and then, “Congratulations on becoming the Head of Product at NGL.”
Ugh, if true.
Neither party has responded to our requests for comment at this time.
It remains to be seen to what extent Iconic Hearts will be able to prove its claims in court. The lawsuit seeks damages and an injunction. The lawsuit also mentions dozens of unknown defendants who may be working or collaborating with NGL, whom Iconic Hearts hopes the court will uncover and name.
Credit: techcrunch.com /