July 20, 2024
Buzzy social app Fizz sues rival Sidechat over unfair competition practices


Fizz, the buzzy anonymous social app that’s now being used across more than 80 college campuses, has filed suit against rival Sidechat, alleging unfair competition and a range of abuses, including attempts at disrupting Fizz’s launches, spreading rumors about Fizz having hackers, trademark infringements, sending false spam reports to Instagram and using false pretenses to acquire information on Fizz’s launch strategies, among other things, including paying students to delete Fizz’s app.

The case was filed in the Southern District of Court against Sidechat owner, Flower Ave. on October 6, 2023. The complaint demands a jury trial, damages and an injunction against Flower Ave.’s interference and its use of Fizz’s trademark.

Sidechat has been relatively press-shy to date; however, TechCrunch previously confirmed involvement from ex-Snap engineer Sebastian Gil and ex-Snap product designer Chamal Samaranayake — both of whom are listed in an SEC filing for Flower Ave. This March, the company acquired another anonymous social app, Yik Yak, which had been operating under new ownership as of 2021 as the original app had shut down by way of an acqui-hire by Square (now Block) in 2017.

But with Fizz’s growing traction across Sidechat’s same college campus market, it seems the latter has upped its competitive tactics, if the allegations in Fizz’s filing hold true.

For instance, Fizz says that when it launched at Colgate University in January 2023, Flower Ave. launched the same day by setting up a competing station near the dining hall. There, a Flower Ave. ambassador chanted, “Fizz has hackers” and spread rumors that Fizz would hack student accounts and compromise their data — claims Fizz denies. (Fizz did have a security vulnerability last year that it fixed within 24 hours, TechCrunch previously reported.)

Fizz also said that Flower Ave. has used false pretenses to acquire information about Fizz’s launch strategies, which are private. In one example, Flower Ave. co-founder Sheldon Chang impersonated a student at Northwestern University in an effort to learn where Fizz was launching. He did so by infiltrating the GroupMe chat for that community, where he then sent messages to Fizz COO and co-founder Teddy Solomon using a fake name (“Mark Lee”), soliciting information about where Fizz planned to launch next.

The court filing includes screenshots of these communications which reveal that when Solomon replied, the header of their conversation was updated to “Sheldon (SideChat),” as it appeared Chang had accidentally reverted to his real name.

Fizz also alleges that Flower Ave.’s marketing campaigns infringe on its trademark — a stylized bee — and include spreading misinformation. In addition, it says that Sidechat’s owner has engaged in campaigns to get Fizz delisted from Instagram by using its own ambassadors to report Fizz’s account as spam. This worked on at least one occasion, as Fizz was blocked on Instagram on its launch day at UC Berkley.

Fizz says it learned of Flower Ave.’s plans to derail its launches when a member of Sidechat’s ambassador group chats forwarded the messages to Fizz.

Plus, Fizz says Flower Ave. paid students $5 each to delete Fizz’s app from their phones, referencing a Yale News story.

Before filing suit, Fizz tried to raise its concern with Flower Ave., including by sending multiple cease-and-desist letters to its outside counsel, but as of the date of filing, it had not received a “substantive response,” it says.

Fizz‘s counsel has communicated with Sidechat’s counsel about this complaint. Fizz‘s counsel also sent Sidechat’s counsel multiple cease and desist orders over the past year,” a company spokesperson confirmed with TechCrunch.

Founded by Stanford dropouts Teddy Solomon and Ashton Cofer, and led by CEO Rakesh Mathur, Fizz recently closed on an additional $25 million in Series B funding from early investors Owl Ventures and NEA, and said it plans to reach 250 schools by year-end.

Meanwhile, Sidechat’s attempts to take over YikYak have not gone well, with many users protesting the changes to the social network, after its acquisition.

Flower Ave. has not responded to requests for comment.

The full complaint can be read here:

Fizz v. Flower – Complaint by TechCrunch on Scribd



Source link