Ryan Kavanaugh, the majority shareholder of Triller, could not have asked for better brand awareness. His team at the second-leading social media and video-sharing app in the world watched in amazement as President Donald Trump announced in July 2020 that he wanted to ban TikTok in the United States. TikTok, developed by Chinese media influencers, is the leading platform for video sharing in the world.
Thanks to Trump’s words, advertisers, creators, and users came to Triller in droves to see how it differed from the competition. Most have remained since that time. Although Trump’s threat to TikTok never materialized because he left office a few months later, Triller benefitted enormously from the presidential brand awareness. Ryan Kavanaugh knew it was the ideal time to expand the platform to become a serious contender with TikTok.
The attention both social media apps received after Trump’s announcement brought inevitable comparisons between the two. However, Kavanaugh describes Triller as having an entirely different business model that is more like Google or Facebook than TikTok. Triller exists to help content creators increase their presence on the web, and it earns more money the better job it does in achieving this goal.
Kavanaugh was a co-founder and early investor in Triller, but he held minority shares. That left him unable to make big decisions on behalf of the business. He became the majority shareholder in 2019 after sinking $28 million into the company to expand its access to quality brands, influencers, musicians, and celebrities.
One strategy he used to increase the appeal of the platform was to bring performers over from TikTok. These people already had huge followings, which eliminated the need to spend money to increase name recognition. Several performers who signed on with Triller also became investors, including Snoop Dog, Lil’ Wayne, and Kendrick Lamar. Between Kavanaugh’s hard work and investments and Trump drawing attention to Triller, the company held a value of $1.25 billion by January 2021.
While others in the sports industry assumed that interest in boxing had peaked decades earlier and would stay in perpetual decline, Kavanaugh felt confident that he could bring the sport back to life. He launched Triller Fight Club in 2020, and it broadcast a fight between two major boxers in November of the same year.
The pay per view event sold for $49.99 and featured a boxing match between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, Jr. as its main event. The broadcast also featured musical acts, appearances by well-known celebrities, and six other fights with lesser-known boxers. Triller Fight Club was an immediate success, something that prompted Kavanaugh to commit to broadcasting six fights in a similar format every year.
Ryan Kavanaugh had to close his business, Relativity Media, in 2016 after having spent $100 million in two years trying to save it. The expenses forced him to file for business bankruptcy twice in a short time. Drawing on his inner resolve, Kavanaugh knew that he was down but not out. He was leading Triller to new deals and record profits less than three years later.