It would now seem that social media giant Facebook has taken note of another rival on the block. Cameo, the social media app that lets users pay celebrities to record for them personalized video messages such as birthday wishes and more, has caught the eye of Facebook as a new rival servicing an interesting new niche.
Founded in 2017, and with famous rapper and entrepreneur Snoop Dogg as a backer, the company has quietly built itself up, mostly in the US. In 2019, only 30% of bookings on the app came from people outside America, but it has still seen “rabid customer demand coming from overseas,” according to the company’s CEO Steven Galanis.
Galanis’ company was valued at $300 million last year, after a $50 million Series B funding round, as per Axios.
This week, an exclusive report from Bloomberg surfaced, revealing that Facebook is now building a product to rival Cameo. This feature will be called Super, and as is usually the case with the modus operandi of Facebook when it comes to taking on rivals, Mark Zuckerberg’s company will be copying, or at least closely mimicking, Cameo’s main features and business model.
“The tool, called Super, will let creators, entrepreneurs or celebrities host live, interactive video events,” Bloomberg said, based on information from a person familiar with this new project. “Viewers can tip creators by buying them digital gifts, or pay to ‘appear’ alongside a creator during the livestream to ask a question or take a selfie… Creators will also be able to sell merchandise or other products alongside the livestream.”
It is not clear yet whether Super will be built as a standalone app, or whether it will be part of an existing Facebook product, like Instagram, for example.
As for the team behind this new project, it is none other than the New Product Experimentation (NPE) team, a Facebook entity that that builds standalone apps and other products. This team was first announced in 2019, with Facebook saying it “decided to use this separate brand name to help set the appropriate expectations with users that NPE Team apps will change very rapidly and will be shut down if we learn that they’re not useful to people.”
The reason Facebook did not decide to offer this latest rival a buyout offer like it usually does before it commits to copying their features is because the company is in a major rut with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) right now. In a new antitrust lawsuit (in addition to others the company is already contending with), the FTC said that Facebook used monopoly power “with the aim of suppressing, neutralizing and deterring serious competitive threats.” As a result, it is seeking to break up FB from its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram, two brands it acquired in the past decade.
As Tech Crunch explains, “The FTC and state lawsuits both call for the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, perhaps among others, to be retroactively judged to be illegal, and for those companies to be split off from the main Facebook company.”
With this in mind, Facebook going on the prowl to acquire Cameo at a sensitive time like this would certainly be an act of suicide, so it has instead decided to pursue its allegedly anti-competition practices by copying this new rival discreetly through the NPE team.
While Facebook’s aggressive copying has served it well in the past, it is not clear how this new competition with Cameo will pan out, especially while the company is under legal scrutiny.