TikTok: the world’s most valuable startup that you’ve never heard of
In a fourth-quarter upset, China’s Bytedance (parent of music video app TikTok) has overtaken Uber as the world’s most valuable startup.
After closing a $3 billion funding round led by Japan’s SoftBank group, Bytedance — which also owns Chinese news aggregator Toutiao and a host of other social media apps — has reached a reported $75 billion valuation. Its closest competition, Uber Technologies, falls $3 billion short of that benchmark, according to CB Insights, a tech market intelligence platform. Uber is reportedly vying for an IPO in 2019 that could boost its value to $120 billion, but Bytedance holds top billing for now.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a video sharing platform with a twist. Videos can be no longer than 15 seconds and they are based on various themes: music, cooking, travel, dance, fashion, and so on. Users create these short videos, use simple tools to add music and special effects and share them on the site. The most popular clips are high on entertainment value, with a premium on instant gratification. Similar to Vine, which shut down in 2016, TikTok can be thought of as a video version of Instagram or Snapchat.
By the start of 2017, Doujin had become China’s most popular mobile video app.
In November of the same year, ByteDance spent US$1 billion to acquire a competing video sharing site called Musical.ly. While Musical.ly was also founded in China, most of its users were based in the US. The combined global reach of TikTok and Musical.ly made for a powerful combination.