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Triller CEO says deal with Bob Diamond-backed AGBA will revitalize social media push

a photo illustration of Triller CEO Bobby Sarnevesht surrounded by colorful circles

Photo illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios; Photo: Courtesy of Triller

Triller, the controversial company that once tried to rival TikTok, is betting the upcoming merger with AGBA will revitalize its social media ambitions, CEO Bobby Sarnevesht tells Axios.

Why it matters: The potential ban of TikTok by U.S. regulators will lead to a social media land grab by firms looking to cater to the massive audience it would leave behind.

Driving the news: Triller agreed to merge with AGBA Group, a Hong Kong-based financial services firm last month, in a deal that values the combined company at $4 billion.

  • Triller has eyed the public markets for years, first through a scuttled deal with SeaChange and then a direct listing on the NYSE, which it withdrew this week.
  • Both AGBA and the combined entity that will be formed after the deal closes will be chaired by former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond.

Zoom in: Sarnevesht said they chose the AGBA deal primarily because of Diamond's presence and the idea that a deal is quicker than an IPO.

  • "The TikTok timing stuff is pretty imperative," he tells Axios. "We really want to get out there, telling our story, and start rebuilding the app, which is one of our key products at Triller."
  • Sarnevesht, who took over as CEO in December, said that fixing its problems with music industry is high priority as is courting creators with more small to mid-size followings.
  • "The one tactical error that Triller made was we focused too much on the top of the tail. Where TikTok was brilliant, and people don't give them credit for this, they focused on the long tail," he said. "The big guys came because they noticed the audience was there."

Catch up quick: Triller first launched in 2015 as a video editing app but later rebranded as a music-themed social media app, even announcing investments from top music artists including Snoop Dogg, The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar.

Zoom out: In addition to its video app, Triller owns a SaaS business, an AI company, streaming platform FITE and Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.

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