About 15 months ago, Tenor was trying to get its GIF search engine onto as many phones as possible. So it did the logical thing — it partnered with businesses that were already on a lot of phones.
The startup, which offers a universal GIF keyboard that you can download to your phone, also signed deals with Messenger, iMessage and Kik to put its technology inside their messaging apps so users could easily search through Tenor’s library of GIFs (which are short looping video clips), and send them off to friends inside of private conversations.
The deals appear to have worked: Tenor, which rebranded in October from Riffsy, says people are using its GIF search engine 200 million times per day, up from 50 million daily searches 15 months ago. It has 200 million monthly active users, a number that has also quadrupled in the same amount of time.
As people are sending more and more messages, they’re sending more and more GIFs.
But despite user growth, Tenor is still dealing with the same question Recode was asking 15 months ago: Are GIFs a real business?
Tenor CEO David McIntosh remains adamant that they are, though his company still isn’t making any revenue despite all the messaging deals. As of October, Giphy, a competitor recently valued at $600 million, wasn’t bringing in any revenue, either.
McIntosh’s plan to change that sounds simple: He sees Tenor as a Google-like search engine, but for emotions. People search for GIFs based on how they’re feeling, he explained, which means Tenor knows when users are sad or happy or scared or laughing out loud.
He hopes to turn those search queries into a business, similar to how Google shows ads based on search keywords.
“[We want to] give brands this emotional dimension of targeting,” McIntosh explained. “How do you reach people at…