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Anonymous messaging app Yik Yak is up for sale, according to sources familiar with the situation. Sequoia Capital, the company’s biggest investor, has in recent weeks held deal talks with potential buyers for the Atlanta-based startup.
Yik Yak has the option to sell to a few different acquirers, sources say, but none of the deals will provide a return for the company’s investors. More likely, the company will strike an acqui-hire-style deal for its technology team in exchange for stock in the acquiring company. Yik Yak has raised $73.5 million in venture funding, the biggest chunk of which came from Sequoia in 2014, valuing the company at $400 million.
At the time, Yik Yak felt like the hottest app on college campuses. But the app’s anonymity made it a conduit for cyberbullying, prompting complaints. The company built tools to keep harassment off its platform, but adoption began to drop before the company could even figure out a way to make money. As far as I am aware, the company has never earned any revenue.
In December 2016, the Yik Yak laid off 60% of its staff, leaving about 20 employees. At the time the company had “eight figures” worth of cash in the bank, a source said. With much of its marketing and “growth” team gone, the company planned to begin incubating new apps, including a secret group messaging app that The Verge discovered in February called Hive.
Yik Yak’s tale is a common one in Silicon Valley: Investors race to pour money into the hot app of the moment, only to watch adoption and usage drop shortly after the ink dries on the term sheet. Then the app becomes a punch line, then it’s forgotten, then somebody snidely tweets “remember yikyak?” (or frontback, or secret, or yo, or ello, or meerkat, or wuwu)… Social media is a hits-driven business, but even harder than making a hit is staying one.
Yik Yak and Sequoia did not immediately respond to request for comment.