Musical.ly, founded in Shanghai by Louis Yang and Alex Zhu in 2014, exploded in popularity among American teens in 2016 and has since expanded beyond its flagship app for creating and sharing personal music videos.
Beijing ByteDance Technology, the operator of China's dominant news aggregator Toutiao, has bought social video app Musical.ly, its second acquisition in a week as it aggressively seeks new users by widening its range of content offerings. The Musical.ly founders and team will join Bytedance and continue to run the platform.
Musical.ly lets users lip-sync along to short music clips or sing and dance a capella and upload it to the site. "To achieve this, we need to constantly innovate to provide new and exciting video creation tools to our users, and we see AI as a critical factor in augmenting human creativity". Bytedance past year formed an R&D division, called the Toutiao AI Lab, headed by Ma Wei-Ying, formerly Microsoft Research Asia's assistant managing director.
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Bytedance operates a suite of products that provide creators and users with a content experience powered by machine and deep learning algorithms.
According to Musical.ly co-founder Alex Zhu, "Bytedance's leading AI technologies and top-notch AI developers can empower us to innovate faster and roll out new user offerings unlike anything users have experienced before".
The startup previously raised more than $46 million from such investors as GGV Capital, Qiming Venture Partners, GX Capital, and Susquehanna International Group. The company recently bought aggregation platform News Republic from Cheetah Mobile, which is also an investor in Musical.ly, for Dollars 86.6 million.
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News Republic, according to Bytedance's Zhang, will give the company "access to high-quality content from thousands of high-profile media partners around the world, making an exciting step forward in our worldwide expansion strategy".
ByteDance announced the deal yesterday without citing a price tag.
According to news reports, the deal's value has been estimated between $800 million and $1 billion.
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