Chinese social media apps have struggled to win over users beyond their home turf. TikTok is changing that. In the space of just two years, the app has amassed more than half a billion users — around 40% of them outside China — who share short videos of themselves lip-syncing, cooking, dancing or just being silly.
Created by Beijing-based startup Bytedance, TikTok has gained an international edge over China’s established social media platforms, such as Tencent’s (TCEHY) WeChat, Sina Weibo (WB) and Alibaba’s (BABA) Youku. “What sets ByteDance apart is its success in the social media category, which is dominated by Facebook, Twitter and Snap — all Western companies,” said Randy Nelson, head of mobile insights at analytics firm Sensor Tower.
Social video apps reached new levels of popularity this year. Three of them are in the top 10 most downloaded apps worldwide, according to Sensor Tower. ByteDance owns two of the three: TikTok and Vigo. The other is Instagram, which belongs to Facebook (FB).
ByteDance’s success is attracting big investors. It’s reportedly in talks with tech kingmaker SoftBank (SFTBY) about an investment that would value it around $75 billion, a huge jump from the $20 billion valuation it secured last year. That would make ByteDance one of the world’s most valuable startups alongside Uber.
ByteDance declined to comment on the reports. SoftBank didn’t respond to a request for comment.