If you’re like me, who isn’t big on social media, you’d think that the image filters that come inside most apps will do the job. But for many others, especially the younger crowd, making their photos stand out is a huge deal.
The demand is big enough that PicsArt, a rival to filtering companies VSCO and Snapseed, recently hit 130 million monthly active users worldwide, roughly a year after it amassed 100 million MAUs. Like VSCO, PicsArt now offers video overlays though images are still its focus.
Nearly 80 percent of PicsArt’s users are under the age of 35 and those under 18 are driving most of its growth. The “Gen Z” (the generation after millennials) users aren’t obsessed with the next big, big thing. Rather, they pride themselves on having niche interests, be it K-pop, celebrities, anime, sci-fi or space science, topics that come in the form of filters, effects, stickers and GIFs in PicsArt’s content library.
“PicsArt is helping to drive a trend I call visual storytelling. There’s a generation of young people who communicate through memes, short-form videos, images and stickers, and they rarely use words,” Tammy Nam, who joined PicsArt as its chief operating officer in July, told TechCrunch in an interview.
PicsArt has so far raised $45 million, according to data collected by Crunchbase. It picked up $20 million from a Series B round in 2016 to grow its Asia focus and told TechCrunch that it’s “actively considering fundraising to fuel [its] rapid growth even more.”
The app doubles as a social platform, although the use case is much smaller compared to the size of Instagram, Facebook and other mainstream social media products. About 40 percent of PicsArt’s users post on the app, putting it in a unique position where it competes with the social media juggernauts on one hand, and serving as a platform-agnostic app to facilitate content creation for its rivals on the other.
What separates PicsArt from the giants, according to Nam, is that people who do share there tend to be content creators rather than passive consumers.
“On TikTok and Instagram, the majority of the people there are consumers. Almost 100 percent of the people on PicsArt are creating or editing something. For many users, coming on PicsArt is a built-in habit. They come in every week, and find the editing process Zen-like and peaceful.”
Trending in China
Most of PicsArt’s users live in the United States, but the app owes much of its recent success to China, its fastest growing market with more than 15 million MAUs. The regional growth, which has been 10-30 percent month-over-month recently, appears more remarkable when factoring in PicsArt’s zero user acquisition expense in a crowded market where pay-to-play is a norm for emerging startups.
“Many larger companies [in China] are spending a lot of money on advertising to gain market share. PicsArt has done zero paid marketing in China,” noted Nam.
When people catch sight of an impressive image filtering effect online, many will inquire about the toolset behind it. Chinese users find out about the Armenian startup from photos and videos hashtagged #PicsArt, not different from how VSCO gets discovered from #vscocam on Instagram. It’s through such word of mouth that PicsArt broke into China, where users flocked to its Avengers-inspired disappearing superhero effect last May when the film was screening. China is now the company’s second largest market by revenue after the U.S.
A hurdle that all media apps see in China is the country’s opaque guidelines on digital content. Companies in the business of disseminating information, from WeChat to TikTok, hire armies of content moderators to root out what the government deems inappropriate or illegal. PicsArt says it uses artificial intelligence to sterilize content and keeps a global moderator team that also keeps an eye on its China content.
Despite being headquartered in Silicon Valley, PicsArt has placed its research and development center in Armenia, home to founder Hovhannes Avoyan. This gives the startup access to much cheaper engineering talents in the country and neighboring Russia compared to what it can hire in the U.S. To date, 70 percent of the company’s 360 employees are working in engineering and product development (50 percent of whom are female), an investment it believes helps keep its creative tools up to date.
Most of PicsArt’s features are free to use, but the firm has also looked into getting paid. It rolled out a premium program last March that gives users more sophisticated functions and exclusive content. This segment has already leapfrogged advertising to be PicsArt’s largest revenue source, although in China, its budding market, paid subscriptions have been slow to come.
“In China, people don’t want to pay because they don’t believe in the products. But if they understand your value, they are willing to pay, for example, they pay a lot for mobile games,” said Jennifer Liu, PicsArt China’s country manager.
And Nam is positive that Chinese users will come to appreciate the app’s value. “In order for this new generation to create really differentiated content, become influencers, or be more relevant on social media, they have to do edit their content. It’s just a natural way for them to do that.”
Major Espresso Machine Brands Ranked Worst To Best
Made in Italy, Lelit holds a prominent position among top-tier espresso machine manufacturers. While it may be one of the smaller Italian brands, Lelit has made a name for itself by crafting high-caliber machines. The company takes pride in its Italian roots and every Lelit machine is designed and manufactured in Italy.
Given the quality Lelit upholds, their machines come with a premium price tag. They fit the needs of businesses and quaint cafes. However, their cost might place them beyond the reach of the average household unless they have considerable disposable income or have been saving up for one. The Victoria, Lelit’s entry-level model, costs about $1,000, while their flagship, the Bianca, can be priced upward of $3,000. For such an investment, owners receive a café-grade espresso machine laden with top-notch features. Lelit’s machines are known for their precision in temperature regulation via electronic sensors, strong stainless steel construction, and sleek design.
They’re not as large as industrial-designed espresso machines, but they produce the same quality in a compact and aesthetically pleasing design. The higher-end model comes with carved wooden handles and knobs while their entry-level products use plastic in their design.
It Sure Looks Like Microsoft Will Get To Buy Activision After All
Although consultation on this new proposal doesn’t end until next month, the government body said this new plan overall “makes important changes that substantially address the concerns it set out” when the first proposal was submitted. It noted that it would quell the concerns that big franchises such as “Overwatch,” “World of Warcraft,” and “Call of Duty” would be under the sole control of Microsoft for cloud gaming.
However, the CMA still worries that certain aspects of the deal might not be fully upheld. It noted that Microsoft has assured that this would not be the case, as the terms will be enforceable by the CMA. Colin Raftery, senior director of mergers and Phase 1 decision maker, said, “With additional protections to make sure that the deal is properly implemented, this will maintain the structure of the market, enabling open competition to continue….”
If the CMA finds this proposal to be acceptable, Microsoft is still not in the clear. Another ongoing consultation about the acquisition determines if Microsoft can purchase any part of Activision, excluding the previously mentioned cloud services. Both consultations will be open until October 6. With the FTC’s go-ahead and the CMA’s acknowledgment that Microsoft is headed in the right direction, this deal could be getting off the ground sooner rather than later.
Why The iPhone 15 Pro Max Might Just Win You Over Even Before You Turn It On
The recent downside to that, though, came with the switch in Apple’s design language to squared-off edges. That transition, on the iPhone 12, wasn’t exactly new — in fact, it was heralded as a welcome nod back to one of the most popular designs in the Cupertino firm’s back catalog, the iPhone 5 — but it was the first time we’d seen that crisp aesthetic with such big screens on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
As anybody who has used any of the Max-scale models since then will probably have discovered, there can be a downside when it comes to your fingers.
To be blunt, the iPhone is sharp. Whether using the iPhone 14 Pro Max one- or two-handed, I’d typically support the bottom edge with the little finger on my right hand. 240 grams may not sound like a lot, but when it’s all pressing down on one narrow edge, on the sensitive skin of your weakest finger, after a while you notice it.
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