Ex-Cartoonist Jacob Blackstock’s Bitmoji App Becomes Part of Snapchat
by BK Munn
This is kind of a comics story, I guess? If it is, it could be read as one of the biggest comics stories in Canadian history, from a financial point-of-view, at least. Anyway, the news is that U.S. social media company Snapchat has bought the Toronto company Bitstrips for a rumoured $100-million. Bitstrips, a start-up started up by a so-called ex-cartoonist named Jacob “Ba” Blackstock, was a website and app that allowed users to create their own hideous-looking comic strips and create cartoon avatars. The company recently morphed into an app developer responsible for creating something called Bitmoji, an app that enables users to create their own avatars and personalized emojis using the same generic, big-eyed cartoon character types it pioneered in its previous incarnation. (Also worth reporting is that the company is hiring?)
As the Globe and Mail reports, the company had received millions in investor funding over the last handful of years but has now been absorbed by the ever-expanding $16-billion Snapchat empire:
“An open secret in Toronto’s tech startup community was officially confirmed Tuesday when booming social media service Snapchat announced its 150 million daily active users would now have in-app access to Bitmojis from Toronto’s Bitstrips.
Back in late March, when news that one of California’s hottest startups had purchased the somewhat obscure Canadian company, the valuation was pegged close to $100-million (U.S.) by some sources. At the time, neither company confirmed the relationship, and in June Snapchat opened a small and separate Toronto sales office to tap the Canadian market for advertising opportunities.
While a Snapchat spokesperson confirmed that an acquisition took place and that the company was “thrilled” to add the Toronto startup to the “Snapchat family,” the company said it would not discuss terms and confirmed the two Toronto offices would remain separate.
Bitstrips, which was founded in 2007, had raised about $11-million (U.S.) from venture funders such as Li Ka Shing’s Horizon Ventures and storied Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. Bitstrips founder Jacob “Ba” Blackstock, a former cartoonist, released a statement saying “We’re incredibly excited to be joining the innovative team over at Snapchat.”
Today’s announcement will let users add Bitmojis – which are personalized graphics that let users express a range of emotions and ideas using a cartoonish caricature of themselves – as a sticker to the chat and Snap features of the app. If a Snapchat contact also has Bitmoji setup, friendship stickers featuring both users will be available (users will still need to install the separate Bitmoji app to access the new features).”