Jul 14, 2020 - Economy

L.A.-based Triller waits in the wings as more companies ban TikTok

The Chinese flag with Tik Tok-style stars.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

TikTok has helped China's ByteDance become the world's most valuable "unicorn" company, but its shiny horn is beginning to get some serious scuff marks.

Driving the news: Wells Fargo yesterday told employees to delete TikTok from company devices. This is similar to what Amazon did last Friday, except Wells Fargo didn't then backtrack and claim to have made "a mistake."

  • This comes shortly after TikTok was banned in India, by far its largest market.
  • TikTok also is at increased risk of being banned in the U.S., its third-largest market, with multiple social media execs telling me they believe President Trump's bark will lead to bite.

What's next: If TikTok is indeed banned in the U.S., lots of apps are preparing to take its place. Pay special attention to one: Los Angeles-based Triller.

  • The app was originally created by a pair of musical techies who wanted to edit music videos without complex software, but now is a more robust version of TikTok (albeit a bit slower with barely a fraction of the downloads).
  • It claims to have jumped from a few hundred thousand users in India to tens of millions after the TikTok ban, thanks in part to some well-known influencers joining its platform.
  • Triller, which last year raised $28 million in a round led by a holding company affiliated with Ryan Kavanaugh (founder of hot-then-bankrupt film studio Relativity Media), is said to be in the midst of a large new fundraise being managed by UBS.
  • It also just quietly acquired a livestreamed events app called Halogen, Axios has learned.

The bottom line: Unicorns have failed before, but none have been abruptly regulated out of existence. If Triller can convince investors that it's a viable fallback plan, it could soon become a unicorn itself.

Go deeper: Competitors ready to pounce on TikTok bans

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