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Social app IRL valued at $1 billion shuts down because it doesn't have any users IRL

Social app IRL, valued at $1 billion, shuts down because it doesn't have any users IRL IRL website

IRL, a social app meant to connect young people and discover events, seemed to have everything going for it. The company was able to overcome the challenges of running an event discovery app during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone was stuck inside. With a killer domain name in and a pivot to also focusing on online event discovery, IRL eventually grew to 20 million users, according to its founder Abraham Shafi, raising more than $200 million in VC funding.

One problem: It appears that the vast majority of those 20 million users are fake.

According to a report from The Information, IRL employees have been skeptical of user base claims from Shafi, who was also the CEO of the company until he was suspended by the board of directors in April. A subsequent investigation by the board found some shocking information that vindicated those employees' skepticism.

The board's investigation found that 95 percent of IRL's supposed 20 million users were actually "automated or from bots." The SEC has also launched an investigation into whether IRL misled investors, violating securities law.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened in the tech space. For example, just earlier this year, JP Morgan sued the founder of Frank, an app it required for $175 million, for lying about the startup's user numbers.

In June 2021, IRL raised $170 million from the investment firm SoftBank, which put the company at a valuation of more than $1 billion. When IRL laid off 25 percent of its workers just one year later, Shafi attempted to calm the remaining staffs' worries by saying the company had “more than enough cash to last well into 2024.”

Now, IRL is shutting down.

Any users – of the few that actually existed – who visit today are met with a message announcing the shutdown of the app on June 27.

"IRL is shutting down and the application will formally be turned off on June 27th at 12pm PDT," the announcement reads. "We thank you for hosting your community chats with us, and we wish your community great conversations on other platforms moving forward."