ByteDance is selling some of the artificial intelligence technology that powers its viral video app TikTok to websites and apps outside of China, as it broadens its sources of revenue ahead of its long-awaited IPO.
A new department called BytePlus was quietly established in June, and its customers have spread all over the world, including the United States.
According to its website, early customers include American fashion app Goat; WeGo, a Singapore travel booking website; and Indonesian online shopping startup Chilibeli. TikTok is also listed as one of its customers.
BytePlus provides companies with the opportunity to take advantage of some of TikTok’s secret ingredients: an algorithm that keeps users scrolling by recommending videos that it thinks they will like. They can use this technology to personalize their applications and services for customers.
Other software provided includes automatic translation of text and voice, real-time video effects, and a set of data analysis and management tools.
When the user dances or gestures in front of the camera, its computer vision technology can detect and track 18 points around the body from head to toe. BytePlus recommends using it for beauty or fashion applications.
According to the employees’ LinkedIn profiles, the new department has recruited employees from corporate technology companies such as Microsoft and IBM in its main hub Singapore, as well as London and Hong Kong.
He Tianyi, a sixth-grade veteran of ByteDance who graduated from Tianjin University in 2014 with a major in computer science, has been listed as the head of Singapore ByteDance on LinkedIn since June.A 15-second promotional video titled “Hello, World!” was posted to LinkedIn last month.
BytePlus’ toolset appears to compete with artificial intelligence services from companies such as Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, and Microsoft, as well as other Chinese groups such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent.
BytePlus’ international debut came after the launch of similar business-to-business services in China. Customers of Volcano Engine or Volcengine include JD.com, Vivo and Geely.
ByteDance’s first enterprise product is an enterprise collaboration application called Lark, which was launched in 2019 as an alternative to Slack or Microsoft Teams. With the rapid growth of TikTok and its Chinese avatar, Douyin, and with the saturation of online audiences, its in-depth promotion of enterprise technology may reach its peak. ByteDance is testing a series of new products to achieve diversification beyond TikTok in China and internationally, including mobile games and video editing applications.
Online records show that ByteDance has sought to register trademarks related to BytePlus and Volcano Engine in the United States, but it is not clear whether the company has opened an office in the United States.
Cosmo and Mikros were registered as new companies in February and March this year, respectively. Although Zhang Yiming, the founder of ByteDance, is listed as a “person with significant control” in Cosmo, the filing with the British and Irish Companies Registry does not publicly mention BytePlus or its common ancestry with TikTok.
ByteDance declined to comment on its BytePlus plan.