If you’re like me who’s not big on social media, you’d think the image filters that come within most apps will do the job. But for many others, especially younger ones, making their photos stand out is big business.
The demand is great enough that PicsArt, a rival to filter companies VSCO and Snapseed, it recently reached 130 million monthly active users worldwide, roughly a year after it racked up 100 million MAUs. Like VSCO, PicsArt now offers video overlays, although images remain its focus.
Almost 80 percent of PicsArt users are under 35 and those under 18 are driving most of its growth. Users of “Gen Z” (the generation after millennials) are not obsessed with the next big thing. Rather, they pride themselves on having specific interests, be it K-pop, celebrities, anime, sci-fi, or rocket science, topics that come in the form of filters, effects, stickers, and GIFs in PicsArt’s content library.
“PicsArt is helping drive a trend that I call visual storytelling. “There is a generation of young people who communicate through memes, short videos, pictures and stickers, and they rarely use words,” said Tammy Nam, who joined PicsArt as its COO in July, in an interview with TechCrunch. .
So far, PicsArt has raised $ 45 million, according to data collected by Crunchbase. He raised $ 20 million from a Series B round in 2016 to increase his focus on Asia and told TechCrunch that he is “actively considering fundraising to fuel [its] Even more rapid growth. “
PicsArt wants to help users stand out on social media, for example by virtually applying this rainbow makeup look. / Image: PicsArt via Weibo
The app doubles as a social platform, although the use case is much smaller compared to the size of Instagram. Facebook and other major social media products. About 40 percent of PicsArt users post to the app, putting it in a unique position that it competes with social media on the one hand, and serves as a platform-independent app to make content creation easier for its rivals. for the other.
What separates PicsArt from the giants, according to Nam, is that the people who share there tend to be content creators rather than passive consumers.
“On TikTok and Instagram, most people there are consumers. Almost 100 percent of the people on PicsArt are creating or editing something. For many users, coming on PicsArt is a built-in habit. They come in every week and find the editing process zen and peaceful. “
Trends in China
Most of PicsArt’s users live in the United States, but the app owes much of its recent success to China, its fastest-growing market with more than 15 million MAUs. Regional growth, which has been 10 to 30 percent month-to-month recently, appears to be most remarkable when you factor in the cost of acquiring zero PicsArt users in a crowded market where pay-to-play is the norm. for startups.
“Many larger companies [in China] they are spending a lot of money on advertising to gain market share. “PicsArt has done zero paid marketing in China,” Nam noted.
When people see an impressive online image filtering effect, many will ask about the set of tools behind it. Chinese users find out about the Armenia startup from photos and videos tagged #PicsArt, no different from how VSCO It is discovered from #vscocam on Instagram. Through such word of mouth, PicsArt stormed China, where users flocked to its Avengers-inspired missing superhero effect last May when the film was screened. China is now the company’s second largest market in revenue after the US.
One hurdle that all media apps see in China is the country’s opaque guidelines on digital content. Companies in the business of disseminating information, from WeChat to TikTok, hire armies of content moderators to root out what the government deems inappropriate or illegal. PicsArt says it uses artificial intelligence to sterilize content and maintains a global team of moderators who also monitor its content in China.
Despite being based in Silicon Valley, PicsArt has placed its research and development center in Armenia, where founder Hovhannes Avoyan is located. This gives the startup access to much cheaper engineering talent in the country and in neighboring Russia compared to what it can hire in the U.S. To date, 70 percent of the company’s 360 employees they are working in engineering and product development (50 percent of whom are women), an investment that they believe helps keep their creative tools up to date.
Most of PicsArt’s features are free to use, but the company has also looked into paying. It launched a premium program last March that provides users with more sophisticated features and exclusive content. This segment has already overtaken advertising as PicsArt’s main source of income, although in China, its fledgling market, paid subscriptions have been slow.
“In China, people don’t want to pay because they don’t believe in the products. But if they understand their value, they are willing to pay, for example, they pay a lot for mobile games,” said Jennifer Liu, country manager of PicsArt China.
And Nam is sure that Chinese users will appreciate the value of the app. “For this new generation to be able to create truly differentiated content, become influencers or be more relevant on social media, they have to edit their content. It’s just a natural way for them to do that. “