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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

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated Sep 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Unsealed opinion: Trump TikTok ban likely overstepped legal authority

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal court judge on Sunday granted TikTok's request for a temporary restraining order against a ban by the Trump administration.

Driving the news: Judge Carl Nichols on Monday unsealed his opinion, in which he concluded that the ban seeks to regulate the exchange of "informational materials" — something that's expressly exempted from the law laying out the emergency powers Trump invoked.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 29, 2020 - Technology

U.S.-China fight spreads to the chip factory

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Trump administration's campaign against TikTok gets all the headlines, but the U.S. move last week to place restrictions on Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), China's top chipmaker, could end up making a greater difference.

Why it matters: Semiconductor analysts say SMIC represented China's strongest bid to build a domestic chip industry and bolster its tech independence. Sanctions that cut off its access to advanced manufacturing and testing equipment from the U.S. could seriously set that effort back.

2 hours ago - World

World leaders react to "new dawn in America" under Biden administration

President Biden reacts delivers his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

World leaders have pledged to work with President Biden on issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, with many praising his move to begin the formal process for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

The big picture: Several leaders noted the swift shift from former President Trump's "America First" policy to Biden's action to re-engage with the world and rebuild alliances.