Yik Yak, an anonymous message board app popular with teenagers, is being sued by one of its alleged co-founders. Douglas Warstler is claiming that he was unfairly ousted from the startup by the other two founders, Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington. The three entrepreneurs were once college classmates and fraternity brothers.
According to the lawsuit, Yik Yak was first developed by a joint engineering partnership between the three frat brothers that was dissolved earlier this year by Droll and Buffington, who then went on to start their own new company to oversee the popular app. Wastler claims that this was all done as a part of an elaborate and deceitful ploy to kick him out while keeping the partnership's only asset: Yik Yak.
"This is a case of betrayal by greedy co-founders of a tech start-up," reads the lawsuit obtained by Valleywag. Yik Yak has been gaining traction in high schools and college campuses. The startup has already raised $75 million, and investors include DCM Ventures and Tim Draper.
This is far from the first time a white-hot startup has faced a lawsuit from a former collaborator claiming he was unjustly deprived of his due. It's not even the first time founding frat brothers have fought over the legal rights to an app that's taking over the college campus. The Winklevoss twins suing Mark Zuckerberg over the origins of Facebook the most famous instance, having provided the plotline of The Social Network. (Officially, it should be noted, Harvard doesn't recognize the school's fraternities.)
But the closest parallel is the story of the Snapchat's early beginnings. In February 2013, Reggie Brown filed a lawsuit against Snapchat's two co-founders, Bobby Murphy and Evan Spiegel. The three were in the same fraternity at Stanford. Brown claimed he came up with the idea for the photo-sharing app and was suing for sizeable equity.
In September 2014, Snapchat finally settled the lawsuit with their former frat brother. The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Spiegel did end up crediting Brown for coming up with Snapchat's signature disappearing-photo idea.
The opportunity to network and discover future business partners is part of the allure of fraternities. But when the result is the launch of a potential billion-dollar idea, it seems like not even brotherly love can survive the pursuit of greed.