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New Bitstrips App Turns Your Face Into an Emoji

The company also raised $8 million in a round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.


You may soon see a familiar face when you add an emoji to your text message.

Bitstrips, a startup that allows users to create cartoon versions of themselves to share on social media, unveiled a new app Wednesday called Bitmoji that turns those same cartoon avatars into emojis for texting.

The company also announced $8 million in a new round of fundraising led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. That brings the startup’s total funding to $11 million since last December. Existing investor Horizons Ventures returned, according to CEO Jacob “BA” Blackstock.

Bitmoji is the company’s first app outside of the original Bitstrips app, which launched last October. Blackstock says he used some of the funding to build the new product and expand his 23-person startup. With Bitmoji, users can create their own avatars or upload existing ones from Bitstrips. Avatars can then be used in 150 different emoji formats, and there are plans to add holiday-themed designs in the coming weeks, according to Blackstock.

“Your Bitstrips avatar has a lot of possible uses beyond just making comics,” he explained. “This is the first step towards that.”

Bitstrips started as a Web-only Facebook app in 2012, but took off last fall after launching on mobile and attracting celeb users like Ashton Kutcher. More than 30 million avatars were created in the first two months after the app launched, and users have created more than 400 million Bitstrips comics to date, Blackstock says. It’s likely the initial interest has died down — Bitstrips isn’t sharing user growth figures for 2014 — but emojis may help rejuvenate the product.

One of the benefits of Bitmoji is that the startup is not restricted by the Unicode Consortium, the organization that approves the traditional emojis you’re likely familiar with. The Bitmoji emojis aren’t unicode, says Blackstock; they’re graphics, similar to the stickers you might see on Facebook Messenger or Path. In other words, Bitmoji can add new graphics whenever it wants, and it doesn’t need to wait for approval.

Bitstrips isn’t the only company trying to put its own spin on emojis. Keymoji, a downloadable keyboard for iOS 8 unveiled in September, automatically converts your text into emojis as you type. The Bitmoji app also includes a custom keyboard for iOS users, and will launch on both iOS and Android on Wednesday.

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