- ByteDance, the Chinese tech firm, has interviewed candidates for a new U.S.-based CEO role for its viral video app TikTok, Bloomberg reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. It's possible the appointment could handle TikTok's "non-technical functions," such as advertising and operations, though the focus of the role could change based on who is hired, according to Bloomberg.
- The new executive role would not replace Vanessa Pappas, general manager of TikTok U.S., who spearheads state-side operations, Bloomberg's sources said. Engineering and product duties would also still be led by TikTok's current CEO Alex Zhu, according to the report.
- TikTok has lately made concrete moves to scale its U.S. presence. The company this week opened a new 120,000-square-foot office in Culver City, California, in an expansion to better accommodate what are now more than 400 U.S. employees, per a blog post by Pappas.
Even as it weathers tougher scrutiny and the growing pains of being an emergent social media star, TikTok shows few signs of slowing down. Appointing a U.S.-based chief could be a bid at cooling the skepticism of lawmakers who view the app and parent company ByteDance as potential security risks, as noted by Bloomberg. But the U.S. is also an area where TikTok's business is primed to boom, which means setting up a leader to handle areas like advertising makes sense.
TikTok has quickly moved to build out its suite of products for brands that are eager to tap into the app's typically young, highly engaged audience. Early adopters of a reported self-serve advertising platform, in beta since the fall, are seeing promising early signs, according to Digiday. However, marketers told Digiday that the feature — which is separate from the Creator Marketplace that connects brands with creators — lacks the depth of ad targeting and measurement offerings available through older rivals like Facebook.
Commerce is another area TikTok has eyed as users become more comfortable buying via their phones and from online influencers. In November, the app started running beta tests that let creators embed links to product pages in their videos. TikTok previously let brands run shoppable ad campaigns on its platform.
Other TikTok bets include a licensing deal with global music giant Merlin announced this week. A source told TechCrunch that the partnership is part of TikTok's plan to launch a new music streaming service called Resso that would compete with the likes of Spotify.
Such developments could extend a winning streak that has put TikTok top of mind for rivals like Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. TikTok's revenue jumped more than fivefold to $177 million in 2019, according to estimates from Sensor Tower published earlier this week.
While those numbers are peanuts compared to the revenue of established social media giants like Facebook, TikTok's user adoption is harder to ignore. Downloads of TikTok surged 13% year-on-year to 738 million, making the app the second-most downloaded app after Facebook's WhasApp.