Creative-focused app PicsArt hits 100M MAUs, attracting brands tired of trolls

You would think that social networks are more or less “done” now. What would be the point of another in a world filled with so many options? But in fact, there remains a niche which has been growing steadily in the creative corners of the Internet.

PicsArt has been building growing since it was started in 2011. It’s now announced new growth figures which have hit 100 million monthly active users. Remember, Instagram had just 30 million monthly active users when it was acquired by Facebook, although admittedly that was much earlier in the history of social networks.

Hovhannes Avoyan, CEO and founder of PicsArt said: “We see 100 million monthly active users as an important milestone toward making everyone creative; we intend to reach a much larger audience in the years ahead.”

To help accelerate growth, PicsArt has now launched an iMessage App for Stickers; community-created ”#freetoedit” Stickers and a new feature called Remix Chat.

Although now based in Silicon Valley, PicsArt emerged from — and has become a star of — Armenia’s nascent startup scene which also includes mobile learning startup SoloLearn. The Cold War left a heritage of leadership in technology in the country, which is gradually leading to a flowering of new startups.

The story behind the PicsArt’s birth starts with a little girl. One day Avoyan — a serial entrepreneur who founded five previous companies — came across his 10-year-old daughter, who was crying. She’d shared one of her drawings online and trolls had filled the comments section with nasty jibes. She was quickly discouraged to continue sharing. So he decided to create a space for artists, with quality tools, that was also a positive space. In contrast to some other social networks we might mention, trolling was actively discouraged. A place where people could learn, create and share art, experiment, collaborate. The early motto was “Everyone is Creative,” which later changed to “Make Awesome Pictures”.

The startup’s app and site By early 2015, when the app had reached 45M MAU, PicsArt closed its first $10 million of VC funding from Sequoia. That led to more interest and more funding. Another $15M from Insight Venture Partners was followed by a Series B round of $20M.

It now employs over 350 people in the US, Europe, and Asia and sports one of the largest collections of open-source images in the world. Its biggest office is in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, and looks any other super-modern Silicon Valley office.

Over 850 million photos are edited with PicsArt monthly, and many of them are free to use images and stickers. That makes it one of the largest collections of free images and stickers in the world. the company says its users are making over 50M stickers every month. And where there are stickers there are brands and marketing agencies.

PicsArt recently started working with brands and celebrities. The idea is to provide them with a platform to engage with their fans on a meaningful level. For example, the company undertook a campaign for 30 Seconds to Mars the LA rock band led by Hollywood star Jared Leto. This produced over 50,000 authentic pieces of content for the band and generated tens of millions of impressions on and off PicsArt.

It’s also attracted Natalia Vodianova – the supermodel and a philanthropist — to become its Head of Aspiration, as well as joining the board. She participated in various creative programs that are organized within the PicsArt app community. Last year she used Picsart to normalize breastfeeding with her #TreeOfLife campaign. This transformed breastfeeding photographs into articulate pieces of creative art.

Avoyan says brands are coming onboard because the content is authentic and 100% fan-produced and inspired by the brand; drive efficiency in marketing; and lots of social engagement.