Former employee sues social media app, alleges inflated user numbers

An IRL employee alleges the company retaliated against him for raising concerns about user numbers.

Former employee sues social media app, alleges inflated user numbers

Reports state that a former employee has filed a lawsuit alleging that Bay Area social networking startup IRL retaliated after he voiced concerns over the company's growth statistics.

The Information reported that Nicholas Grant had filed a lawsuit against IRL in the U.K. He alleged in his complaint that IRL fired him in February, after he, along with other colleagues, questioned the accuracy and the startup's numbers of active users.

IRL, a social network site centered around events and activities, was founded in 2016 by Abraham Shafi. The company name is a shorthand way of saying "in real-life."

Softbank led a Series C in 2021, which invested $170 million and valued the startup at over $1 billion.

IRL reported to the Business Times in June 2021 that it had 12,000,000 users, a 10X increase over only eight months.

According to the lawsuit, these numbers were exaggerated.

The Information reported that by early 2022 IRL had told investors that the user base of its social media platform was 20 million. However, a third party data firm tracking social media usage put that number closer to 1-2 million.

Grant claims in his complaint that the inflated figures were visible on the internal dashboards he accessed in his role as a software developer at the company. He also noted erratic swings of data, with millions suddenly appearing in different regions around the globe.

The Information reported that this meant IRL used a "millions of bots" and that the customer/user base had been'substantially, wrongly, illegally bloated'.