Google snaps up AI avatar start-up Alter to compete with TikTok

1 Nov 2022

Image: © PixieMe/

The acquisition of Twitter-backed Alter, previously known as Facemoji, is reportedly set to help Google boost its content offerings and compete with TikTok.

It has emerged that Google quietly acquired AI avatar start-up Alter – reportedly for $100m.

Alter, which began its life as Facemoji, was developing a plug-and-play platform to help game and app developers integrate with avatar systems.

It was founded by Jon Slimak and Robin Raszka, and headquartered in the US and Czechia. Early investors in the start-up included Twitter, Roosh Ventures and Play Ventures – all of which participated in a $3m seed round last year.

Slimak, Alter’s chief operating officer, recently took to LinkedIn to share that he was starting a position “building avatars at Google”.

The acquisition was first reported by TechCrunch. Google completed the $100m deal two months ago, a source familiar with the matter told the publication, and no public announcements were made.

A Google spokesperson has confirmed the acquisition to TechCrunch but did not reveal financial details of the deal.

The source said that Google hopes to use Alter to improve its content offerings and compete with the likes of TikTok, but it is not clear how the tech giant will deploy the avatar tech.

Google parent Alphabet rolled out YouTube Shorts last summer, a short-form video competitor to TikTok and Instagram Reels. In June, YouTube revealed that the platform had 1.5bn monthly active users.

The tech giant is also making investments in the extended reality space. Last month, Alphabet’s venture capital arm GV led a $12m funding round for Belfast-based VR start-up SideQuest.

“The SideQuest team has potential to be a leader in this sector that finally feels primed for prime time,” GV general manager M G Siegler said at the time. “The company’s ultimate goal is to become a main hub and software layer for the broader XR ecosystem.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic