3 Takeaways As It Trims Losses, Tweaks Pitch


  • Triller’s preliminary S-1 filing to go public on the New York Stock Exchange has been released.
  • The company reported a smaller net loss in 2022 than in 2021 and around $48 million in 2022 revenue.
  • It highlighted an atypical set of key operating metrics, citing user engagement on competitor apps.

Triller is shooting for a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange more than a year after it first announced plans to go public. The tech company runs a TikTok-like video app, streams combat sports, and sells digital-marketing services, among other products.

Its preliminary prospectus, or S-1, was released last week. It paints a picture of a company that has significantly cut back on spending after going on a buying spree in 2021.

That year, Triller acquired a handful of companies across media and entertainment, including rap-battle platform Verzuz and combat-sports streamer FITE, racking up more than $700 million in net losses. In 2022, the company said it lost far less, around $196 million, and grew revenue by roughly 80% year over year to $47.7 million.

While Triller has dramatically cut back on costs, the company also said it owes money to various vendors for expenses like music licensing, real-estate rentals, engineering, marketing, and legal work. It’s been sued for alleged nonpayment of bills by several of these partners, including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and the analytics firm Sensor Tower. Triller removed music from major rights holders from its app late last year. The company said it saved $7.7 million in Q1 2023 after reducing its music licensing costs. It reached a settlement with Sony Music in July.

Triller said it’s raised more than $380 million in capital since its inception. As of March, it had an accumulated deficit of around $1.29 billion and roughly $2.16 million in cash on hand.

Triller’s long march to a public offering began as early as December 2021 when it declared it would do a reverse merger with a company called Seachange International. It nixed that plan in June 2022 to instead do a direct listing. After confidentially submitting its registration paperwork, as of January, it was still facing delays from the SEC, a spokesperson told Insider.

As it’s bounced between go-public strategies, Triller has tweaked its pitch to retail investors. Over the years, the company has leaned into several buzzy categories in tech, from NFTs, to creators, to metaverse technology to artificial intelligence.

Here are three key takeaways from Triller’s filing, examining the state of its business and its pitch to investors as it looks to go public:

1. Triller is still leaning into celebrities and influencers to pitch its business

Triller has long courted influencers, music artists, and other celebrities to serve as investors and promoters.

The company announced in 2019 it had onboarded music artists including Snoop Dogg, The Weeknd, and Marshmello to serve as investors and strategic advisors. It named in July 2020 TikToker Josh Richards as its chief strategy officer and an investor. (Richards is not mentioned in the S-1 filing.)

Celebrities and creators remain a core part of its pitch to investors in its most recent filing.

In its S-1, the company featured images of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and DJ Khaled inside Triller products. It also included a brief section focused on how TikTok-famous creator Charli D’Amelio used Triller’s text-marketing tool, Cliqz, to engage with fans. D’Amelio and her family joined Triller in 2020 and participated in the company’s “Friday Flip Day” campaign, a creator-marketing push designed to pull over fans from TikTok to Triller.

TikTok came up 23 times in Triller’s preliminary prospectus. The company named it as both a competitor and a platform where it measures user interactions for its own business.

2. Triller’s key operating metrics include engagement on competitor apps like TikTok and Instagram

In its S-1, Triller provides a unique set of engagement metrics to help investors understand its business, including a measure of how people interact with Triller content on competitor apps like TikTok and Snapchat.

The company reports a statistic called “user interactions,” which it defines as the “number of posts, messages, automated communications and e-commerce transactions” it believes it enabled, even if they happened outside Triller’s ecosystem on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, websites, or SMS messaging, Triller wrote.

In its S-1, the company said it enabled 513 million interactions in Q1 2023, compared to 400 million interactions in Q1 2022 and 1.7 billion in Q1 2021.

Triller also broke out several other key metrics by quarter. In Q1 2023, it reported:

  • Roughly 1 billion social-media posts both on and off its owned apps, including “text comments, images, videos and other short-form content”

  • About 181 billion social reactions to those posts, including “any reaction, comment or share of an original social media post” both on and off its owned apps

  • About 2.4 million creators and 26,000 brands tracked across its databases or various platforms

The company’s recently acquired influencer-marketing product Julius has over 2 million creators and around 25,000 brands on its own, per a Triller “investor deck” dated September 2022 and viewed by Insider, which Triller declined to authenticate.

One metric notably absent from Triller’s S-1 is active user counts across its platforms.

While other social-media companies like Instagram-owner Meta Platforms and Snapchat-maker Snap Inc. use metrics like monthly or daily active users to show the scale of their owned-and-operated apps, Triller does not.

Triller’s approach to tallying monthly active users and downloads in 2020 drew scrutiny as third-party analytics firms, former employees, and a source with knowledge of its rights-holder relationships disputed its publicly reported numbers to TechCrunch, Insider, and Billboard.

In early 2021, Triller’s then-CEO Mike Lu, now a director, told Billboard that Triller had “never inflated any user numbers,” that there was no legal definition of monthly active users, and that the company would stop sharing the data point.

In its S-1, the company wrote it had “established more than 550 million user accounts” across its offerings, which it defined as anyone who created an account.

3. Once public, voting power at Triller will be controlled by a few individuals and entities

Triller’s cofounders are reorganizing its business to retain control of decision-making even after the company goes public.

The majority of the voting power — 60.6% — at Triller will be controlled by three entities: cofounder Ryan Kavanaugh’s Proxima Media, cofounder Bobby Sarnevesht, and other “entities and trusts they or their immediate family members or affiliates control.” These leaders will own approximately 15.4% of the company’s outstanding capital stock but have greater voting power based on the class of stock they hold.

“These parties will be able to exercise considerable influence and control over matters requiring stockholder approval, including the election of directors and approval of significant corporate transactions, such as a merger or other sale of our company or our assets,” the company wrote in its S-1.

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