If you’re a Facebook regular, chances are you’ve seen the cute, quirky little comic scenes starring your friends. Bitstrips has become something of a viral phenomenon and the company has grown rapidly in the past few months. So naturally, it’s time to raise some money. Bitstrips announced (via a Bitstrips comic, of course) Thursday that it has raised a $3 million Series A round from Horizons Ventures.
Despite its explosive popularity in recent weeks, Bitstrips has actually been around for a while. The company launched in 2008 at SXSW and has had a steady user base since then, but it didn’t go viral until it launched its mobile app this past fall.
In the last two months, over 30 million avatars have been created, with several individual cities around the world creating over a quarter million avatars each, including Mexico City, Chicago, London, Lima, and Hong Kong. It’s become the number one app in over 40 countries and the top entertainment app in over 90 countries.
And it was the usual story of a startup gone viral: servers were malfunctioning and the system couldn’t keep up. The app experienced several outages during peak user times, and the team was forced to rapidly expand and bring in “super ninjas” to stabilize the system.
The sudden popularity of the app also meant that Facebook was getting deluged with comics, so Bitstrips added new sharing options that allowed users to share within the app or by text or email.
The real question is, how to keep it fresh? How does Bitstrips plan to keep its comics from becoming the next Facebook fad, like Slide and the Superpoke?
“Bitstrips is not just an app, but a growing collection of customizable comic scenes which is being updating daily. We have nearly 2000 scenes so far – and are adding a batch of more than 80 new Holiday scenes this week!” said CEO BA (also known as Jacob Blackstock). “In addition to themed content around holidays, we can quickly create new comic scenes in real-time around pop culture or world happenings, creating new ways people can participate in current events.”
Blackstock also pointed out to me that Bitstrips has had a steady following since its launch in 2008.
The company plans to use the new funding to grow and support its systems and avoid any future catastrophic outages.
As for what’s on the horizon, Blackstock says: “We have lots of big plans but for now, we’re focusing on improving the Bitstrips experience and working to add new features and content.”