Video-sharing app TikTok passed 1 billion downloads last month, and its controlling company ByteDance is rapidly increasing its efforts to monetize its users by introducing ads to the platform, while simultaneously adding more features to keep people engaged. In a bold move to help both of those efforts, ByteDance has made a new acquisition, picking up some digital assets from a now defunct startup called GeoGif.
GeoGif developed location-specific, animated stickers and effects for videos, These overlays and stickers are then suggested to users to add to their videos when they capture video or images in specific places.
It seems that the location-based, animated elements of what GeoGif built is the part of what ByteDance will be adding to TikTok, as the app already has a range filters and stickers to enhance your videos appearances and alter your voice, This new feature would give users the ability to further personalize their videos with geo-related elements. The tech that GeoGif built included location-based back-end technology, a library of animated filters and stickers based on real-time news, locations and activities.
An example of what GeoGif can do for a video if you are, for example, in Miami for Spring Break the app can recognise your posting location and date and display Spring Break stickers to add to your video.
The terms of the acquisition have not been fully disclosed the deal appears to include only the assets of the startup, which folded more than two years ago. Former CEO of GeoGif Dean Glas and his co-founder Mendy Raskin are now both working on new startups.
“We are excited for GeoGif to have a new home at TikTok,” said GeoGif’s CEO Dean Glas, “and we believe our features will be enjoyed by millions of users. We will work closely to make sure it’s a smooth transition that provides a long-term positive impact for the TikTok community.”
A TikTok confirmed that the features that were built for GeoGif will get rolled into the main TikTok app releasing this statement
: “GeoGif and TikTok share a common goal which is enabling people to connect, consume, and create great content. We’re impressed with what the team at GeoGif has built and with TikTok’s resources, we believe that we will deliver an even better user experience for our millions of users who love using TikTok to express their creativity through short videos.”
With TikTok, China-based ByteDance has now created one of the world’s biggest video apps — and subsequently become one of the world’s most valuable startups, it has leveraged the use of acquisitions as a great tactic for adding both users and new features.
To help break into the difficult US market, the main app (TikTok) merged with Musical.ly last year by Toutiao (a ByteDance sub-brand) in 2017. Other acquisitions in 2017 included Flipagram — another music-video app for an undisclosed sum; the AR selfie camera FaceU , reportedly for $300 million; payments startup UIPay and last week it appears that ByteDance acquired the gaming startup, Mokun Technology for an undisclosed sum.
It’s very likely that the GeoGif acquisition was for a much smaller sum than these previous companies, although there were others also parties interested in acquiring GeoGif which could have bumped up its sale price. TikTok already runs ads and has other paid features in Asia, but in the Western markets which include the U.S., the company has been doing very limited testing of different ad formats, presumably to keep the engagement high to gain more western users without running the apps appeal by serving ads.
Earlier this year a leaked document from the company mentioned several new features it was planning to run, including Snapchat-style 2D lens filters for photos; and 3D and AR lenses. It’s these features where GeoGif’s efforts could be utilised.
Also in January this year reports came out that in 2018, ByteDance, for the first time, had failed to beat its own revenue forecasts: It had told investors when it was fundraising for a massive $3 billion and it expected to make between $7 and $8 billion in revenues for the year.
These are massive numbers when you consider that ByteDance’s only offerings are social media apps, which traditionally take years to make money if they ever do at all. But with the company missing growth predictions, this slower than expected growth could be the catalyst for the company launching its new ads in more places sooner than expected.