Zirra Spotlight on Giphy

Giphy is a search engine for GIFs, the animated loops of moving images increasingly popular for communication. Although animated GIFs have existed for decades, Giphy is a leader in their recent surge in popularity. Originally a website for finding GIFs, Giphy has since partnered with Facebook Messenger to build Giphy + Messenger, an app for using GIFs in Messenger conversations, and created add-ons for Gmail and Slack. With its expansion towards a full-featured standalone app, Giphy hopes to make sharing GIFs part of communicating and using the Internet for a wide range of people.

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Competitive Position: While it is clear that Giphy is a leader in gif content, their closest serious competitor is the image sharing community, Imgur, which deals in more than just gifs, having popular features such as meme generators. Due to this diversity Imgur is in many ways the all-around sector leader, bringing in 646 million average monthly users over the last six months, compared to Giphy’s 160 million. However, Giphy comes far ahead of other gif only websites, such as Gif Bin, who see only around a million visitors a month. A very telling statistic regarding their traffic can be seen in the fact that when it comes to traffic sources, social media is the largest driver, and in this area Giphy is the leader. On Facebook, in particular, they are the leader when compared with Imgur, driving 61.9% of traffic, compared to Imgur’s 27.1% of the share, and indirect competitor reddit’s 10.8%. This provides them with great potential should they pursue the monetization models they have mentioned

HR Situation & Reviews: Giphy has shown great growth over the last two years. Still a very young company in December of 2014, they had 21 employees, a number that nearly doubled over the next year to reach 40 in December of 2015. Growth in 2015 was particularly notable with them doubling again by June, reaching 64 employees before reaching a high of 72 in August. In the last three months they have plateaued at 70, with no new hires since they raised $72 million at the end of October. One job board shows 5 editorial jobs for a variety of national cultures and positions for two engineers, but the age of the adverts is only listed as 30+ days old. Interestingly, at this time there are no employee reviews, though Co-Founder Alex Chung has a 75% approval rating on Owler.

Professional & Customer Reviews: In addition to uses from their website, Giphy has created several applications for mobile, all of which are highly rated. At this time Giphy Keys is only available for iOS where it has a 4.5 star rating derived from 129 reviews. Their other two products, Giphy and Giphy Cam also have 4.5 star ratings, derived from 1,550 and 404 reviews respectively. Statistics from Google Play give us further insight with estimates for the number of installs, which we can use to estimate similar numbers for iPhone users. Giphy, their core app, has between 10 and 50 million installations from Google Play and a 4.1 star rating from almost 114,000 reviews. Giphy Cam is a product that is downloaded and utilized far less, with only 100-500,000 installs, likely a similar proportion on iTunes, though it also has a strong 4.3 star rating. The sharing of gifs themselves is the source of the monetization plans and, therefore, the strong number of downloads and high product rating for the core product is a positive sign for Giphy.

Business & Marketing Strategy: While they have raised more than $150 million, it is often pointed out in the press that Giphy is not currently generating revenue. Alex Chung is clear that they have plans but they are focused on growth and user acquisition before they intend to implement any of their ideas for revenue generation. One possible avenue would be with sponsored search results, where a company could ensure that GIFs containing their product showed up higher in search results, with the popular example being Budweiser sponsoring results for searches containing “beer”. Further, there is a serious foundation being laid in their partnerships with television shows, events, and organizations. Almost 80% of all GIFs on Giphy are from TV, movies or celebrities, making partnerships with the likes of Game of Thrones, the Simpsons and the NFL vital to generating the kind of GIFs the public wants. A further advantage of this partnership is not only in the potential to monetize these partnerships, but also avoid copyright issues, as the question of whether GIFs constitute “fair use” has yet to be fully addressed in legal arenas. With their multiple channels of usage and social media strength, Giphy is building a robust user base that will need to be loyal enough to remain dedicated after any changes arise from future monetization of the product.

Founder & Executive Profiles: Co-Founders Alex Chung and Jace Cook have previous experience with social media startups, with Chung’s Fridge being acquired in 2011 by Google for an undisclosed amount after having raised $80,000 in seed money the previous year. Cook’s Hot Potato, a social media agency that provided event-based services, was founded in 2009 and bought by Facebook in 2010 for $10 million, after having raised $1.42 million in seed money. It is not entirely clear how the relationship between the two founders began, but the genesis story for Giphy is consistently that it began after a discussion between the two friends regarding language and messaging. Both do not seem to maintain public LinkedIn profiles, leaving the bulk of their biographical details to be gleaned from media coverage.

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Assaf Gilad

An ex-journalist from Calcalist, a leading business and tech news outlet in Israel, I'm now writing about startups for Zirra.com.