What happens when stickers and emoji collide in a bespoke mash-up that uses your own self-image as the canvas? Bitmoji happens that’s what: a new Android and iOS app from personalized comic strips app Bitstrips that lets you create a custom avatar — by choosing your face shape, haircut and color, and so on — and then have the app turn your cartoon likeness into custom emoji and stickers.
If you think that sounds a bit like extant Bitstrips, the point is to support a whole lot more granular customization — with “literally billions” of possible combinations claimed enabling you to avatarize your unique snowflakeness. If I can put it like that.
Yes, people, emojimania has really come to this.
At launch there are “hundreds” of personalized Bitmoji stickers to choose from, all given the stamp of personalization by starring your own custom avatar.
As well as touting its new standalone emoji app, which can run within the native keyboard interface so users can copy and paste custom stickers into the missives they are composing within other apps — including WhatsApp and iMessage (so long as they support copy/pasting into the text field) — Bitstrips has also today confirmed it’s closed an $8 million Series B funding round from Horizons Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
That’s less than the amount we heard Bitstrips was hoping to raise earlier this year, when our sources suggested it was seeking $15 million. Emoji are hot but evidently not $15M of hawt.
Bitstrips said its new funding will be put towards continued product development and hiring new talent, noting that it has doubled the size of its team in the last year — and now has 23 employees. Figuring out how to monetize its custom comics craze, before it runs out of steam, is surely also going to be front of mind for the team.
Bitstrips says “tens of millions” of avatars have been created with its original comic strip app, thus far, with Facebook hosting much of this cartoonification. It’s clearly hoping to replicate that social spread by making it easier for its personalized stickers to land on other popular mobile messaging platforms, which have highly engaged user-bases and where sticker swapping is a well established comms medium.
However it’s arguably on the back foot here, with big messaging platforms such as Line having already established their own distinctive sticker IP. The question is whether personalized stickers can pull users’ eyeballs away from some of the cute cartoon franchises (and localized content) already being pushed by these platforms.
Stickers which, in the case of Line, are a key revenue stream for its own business. So will custom vanity or kawaii plus marketing muscle prevail? File that one under ‘the great questions of our age’.