Israeli startup sells anonymous messaging app in $32 million deal

Chinese consortium buys Shellanoo’s Blindspot, despite controversy surrounding abuse of application for bullying

A picture taken on January 20, 2016 shows a smart-phone using the Israeli anonymous messaging app Blindspot in Tel Aviv. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)
A picture taken on January 20, 2016 shows a smart-phone using the Israeli anonymous messaging app Blindspot in Tel Aviv. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)

An Israeli startup sold its controversial messaging app and music radio app to a Chinese consortium in a deal worth $32 million, according to media reports Monday.

The Blindspot app will be bought for $28 million and Chinese radio app Mr. C. for another $4 million, according to Channel 2 news.

The Blindspot app allows users to send anonymous messages, photos and videos to their contacts without the receiver being able to trace it. Launched in December 2015 the app has already had over two million downloads, but has drawn charges of being a platform for anonymous bullying.

The Israeli firm behind Blindspot, called Shellanoo Group, called it “a wacky anonymous messaging app that gives people the opportunity to say what they really feel.”

The Blindspot team will remain in Israel for the next year, the Huffington Post reported, and will then move operations to Asia.

The app is a key part of the Shellanoo Group, which is funded in part by investments from global celebrities, including music stars Will.I.Am and Nicki Minaj, as well as Jewish Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich.

The Chinese consortium which purchased Blindspot includes Hong Kong investment firms Wuhan Capital Ltd, Tianjin Games (Hong Kong) Ltd. and a group of investors led by William Ding founder of Chinese Internet giant Netease, Huffington Post reported.

“If we can duplicate the rage Blindspot had in Israel, to a larger country like China, this will prove to be an impressive investment for us,” a spokesperson for Wuhan Capital told the Huffington Post.

Despite its success, the app has been extremely controversial, with accusations of teen bullying and harassment.

The app works like other social networking channels such as Whatsapp, with users able to chat, send pictures and videos. But the identity of the sender remains anonymous.

As it shot towards the top of the charts politicians and campaigners called for it to be banned as it could feed online bullying.

Kulanu MK Meirav Ben-Ari wrote to Apple Israel CEO Aharon Aharon and Google Israel CEO Meir Brand soon after the app’s launch.

“I wish to express my opposition to the marketing of this app, and my concern about how teens and kids will use it,” Ben-Ari wrote. “It appears to me that this app will provide a whole new way to insult people. We already have so much denigration, insult, harassment, and shaming on the web, and that is with people being able to identify each other. Why add to it?”

Shortly afterward a Knesset committee was convened which strongly criticized the app.

The launch of Blindspot in Israel was accompanied by a massive campaign, called the largest in the country’s recent history by Moran Bar, CEO of the Israeli blog Geektime.

Advertisements showing a yellow smiley face with one eye covered by an eye patch adorn billboards across Tel Aviv and on major highways.

In July another Chinese consortium bought Playtika, an Israeli online games company, for $4.4 billion in cash.

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