Triller Competes with TikTok, Considers Going Public

Triller, the video-sharing social network platform, it is exploring a deal to go public. It might use a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The U.S.-based company is positioning itself as a budding competitor to TikTok. Triller has branded itself as an edgier alternative, primarily targeting users in their mid- to late-teens. TikTok, its larger Chinese rival, has recently faced scrutiny from U.S. government officials over national security concerns.

What is a SPAC?

SPACs have been booming in popularity so far this year. A SPAC, also known as a blank check company, is a shell company. It raises money through an initial public offering (IPO). The SPAC then uses the proceeds raised from the IPO for acquiring or merging with a privately held company. As a result of the merger, the privately held target company becomes publicly traded. SPACs have become a popular alternative to traditional IPOs. SPACs have fewer regulatory requirements and therefore provide a more streamlined process to public markets.

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Image Credit: Korea Exchange

Triller is also simultaneously exploring the possibility of raising money through additional private fundraising rounds. These talks are being led by the investment bank UBS and seek to raise $250 million total from private investors.

What is Triller?

Triller is an AI-powered, music-focused social video platform. Users can create music videos on the app by editing them in stages. First, you select a song and the specific section of the song you want to cover. Then you record different scenes of the same portion of the chosen song. Once you have recorded enough scenes, the app mashes them together into one professional-looking music video.

Celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Pitbull, and The Weeknd are backing the Los Angeles-based company. Celebrity users include top names in the music industry such as Alicia Keys, Cardi B, and Eminem. Through licensing partnerships with top studios, Triller enables users to seamlessly create and share content across multiple social media platforms without the hassle of dealing with licensing fees.

Triller Experiencing Exponential Growth

The video app is experiencing record-setting exponential growth, with over 500% month-over-month growth. Triller also reports some of the highest usage times across social networking apps, with users spending an average of over 20 minutes daily and content creators over an hour per day on its platform. The company currently has around a $1.5 billion valuation, which its over 10 times greater than its value last year.

Although Triller is quickly gaining attention, it still is only a fraction of the size of TikTok. The Chinese-owned video app has 689 million monthly active users and 2 billion global downloads of the app. In comparison, Triller reported 65 million monthly active users and 250 million downloads of its app as of August 2020.

TikTok, the Competition

TikTok launched in 2016 and quickly became a worldwide sensation. ByteDance, founded only a few years earlier in 2012, owns TikTok. TikTok’s parent company is an Internet technology company headquartered in Beijing that is worth well over $100 billion.

TikTok isa Chinese-owned company. But Vanessa Pappas, an American-based executive, heads up the company. She took over as interim global chief following her predecessor Kevin Mayer’s departure. The former CEO, Kevin Mayer, is also an American and previously served as a top executive at Disney before making the move over to TikTok. Mayer quit after only three months on the job due to the heightened political attention drawn to TikTok’s security risks.

Twiller Seeks Teenaged Influencers

One strategy being deployed to help rapidly grow Triller’s platform is attracting famous teen influencers to post content on Triller instead of on rival TikTok. Charli D’Amelio and Josh Richards are two examples of social media influencers that have been lured to Triller through equity and brand deals with advertisers. There are even Triller-owned houses in Los Angeles where some of these social media stars live together. Josh Richards, the 18-year-old who first achieved Internet stardom as a TikTok influencer, now serves as the Chief Strategy Officer of Triller.

Movie studio executive Ryan Kavanaugh and healthcare entrepreneur Bobby Sarnevesht currently own the video app. They jointly acquired it in 2019. Both individuals have faced their share of career controversies. Kavanaugh founded the film studio Relativity Media in 2004. Relativity has produced or distributed films such as “Mamma Mia!” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”. However, the studio declared bankruptcy in 2015 and one of Relativity’s lenders sued the studio for fraud shortly thereafter. Kavanaugh’s business partner Sarnevesht has faced fraud allegations over the operation of outpatient surgery centers in the San Francisco Bay Area. A lawsuit brought by Aetna claims that Sarnevesht’s surgery centers overcharged patients by millions of dollars. In 2012, a jury awarded the health insurance company Aetna $37.4 million.

Other Clone Products

In addition to competing against TikTok, Triller faces competition from clone products developed by incumbent tech players such as Snapchat and Facebook. For example, Instagram Reels launched at the beginning of August 2020, just as the Trump administration was weighing a potential ban of the TikTok app.

Triller CEO Mike Lu remains confident that Triller offers a unique product and continues to have strong growth potential. Lu notes that traditional social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are focused on status updates. In contrast, Triller is focused on creative content. Lu commented: “we realized that a lot of users who were waiting for Reels, they saw what it was. And they decided they’re sticking to Triller.”