ByteDance slams the possibility of a Triller-TikTok tie-up

August 31, 2020, 2:34 PM UTC

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Since ByteDance was forced put TikTok’s U.S. operations up for sale, it seemed like just about every tech company had come circling. Over the past few months, names including Twitter, Alphabet, SoftBank and Microsoft had been in the mix. Oracle also came into the picture, challenging Microsoft, the frontrunner. 

Even so, it’s odd to hear TikTok competitor Triller say it partnered with London-based investment firm Centricus Asset Management to submit a $20 billion bid for TikTok’s assets in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and India. While the smallest of the aforementioned tech companies commands a market valuation of $32 billion (Twitter), Triller is not even yet a unicorn.

And then it got weirder. TikTok, along with its parent company, denied receiving a bid from Triller, telling Term Sheet late Sunday that it had no plans to enter talks in the future. 

“We are not and will not be in talks with them,” a ByteDance spokesperson wrote in a statement. “Still, we are flattered by how much they admire TikTok.” 

So was there a bid, or was it just a publicity stunt? 

While neither Triller nor its executive chairman Bobby Sarnevesht have yet to requests for comment from me, a Centricus spokesperson said the bid had been received “at the highest level” at ByteDance, and after ByteDance’s denial, Sarnevesht told The Verge that “either people multiple layers down aren’t aware of what is happening on the highest level or they may have their own agendas and aren’t happy about our offer coming in.”

Here’s the bottom line: Don’t expect a Triller-TikTok tie-up.

All this is coming after Triller sued TikTok earlier this year over a feature that allowed users to synchronize music with multiple videos. It also threatened to sue Apptopia, an app intelligence company, when the latter published a report suggesting that Triller had inflated download numbers. The startup claims it has a total of 250 million downloads across iOS and Android—but Apptopia suggested the figures were closer to 52 million. Apptopia later pulled the report.

A psychedelics IPO: COMPASS Pathways, a Peter Thiel-backed startup using “magic mushrooms” to treat depression, filed to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering on Friday. As with any biotech in the testing phases, the company has yet to post a revenue and had a loss of $19.3 million in 2019. The company has slowed enrollment of new patients into its clinical trials as a result of the pandemic.

You won’t see a lot of the big-name venture capitalists here: First off, the psychedelics movement is promising, but still early stages—a little too early for some investors to even begin dipping their toes. Secondly, vice clauses. They’re the same reason why some venture capitalists aren’t rushing to be a part of the cannabis high. Many large-scale limited partners—for instance, pension funds—include clauses that prevent investments in sectors such as firearms, pornography, or, say, drugs.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda


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