Wanted or not, we are shifting quickly away from face-to-face communication towards texting. In this new era where people speak with their fingers, emoji (表情 biaoqing in Chinese) are becoming an important part of our daily communications to convey emotions and feelings both for the spoken and the unspoken.

This new means of communication has become so common that it is almost impossible to find a purely textual conversation in chat groups. Overall 6 billion out of the 45 billion messages sent out in 2015 in the U.S. were digital expressions. The growing market fostered star projects like Giphy, which was valued at $600 million in the latest round of financing.

BiaoqingYun (literally “emoji cloud” in English) is China’s answer to Giphy. They bill themselves as a platform for personalized expression and communication online, enabling hundreds of millions of mobile users to communicate using fun and engaging media formats like animated GIFs, stickers, and emoji. The company just received an undisclosed amount of A Plus round in January this year.

The Shanghai-based startup was born out of curated avatar design service Siyanhui. The company then grow into a full-fledged platform that powers every aspect of digital expression communication, whether enabling the creation of original content, licensing content or sharing content on social networking and IM platforms through its API.

The firm’s flagship product BiaoqingSoSo API, which enables end users to share GIFs in conversations and on social feeds, has been integrated into top-notch services in China like Alipay, WeChat (through their mini-app), QQ, live streaming platform musical.ly, Tinder-like dating app Tantan and enterprise software Fxiaoke. Up till now, the API has stored over 5 million expressions. The service receives over 100 million search requests per day and has reached 500 million end users, according to the company.


Additionally, the company provides a full product line of the expression services from sticker search engine BiaoqingSoso, fully featured sticker shop SDK, and cloud service.

Although BiaoqingYun has been so far focused on the China market with very limited efforts to expand beyond these borders, the company, like many Chinese startups, is trying to expand its business beyond its home turf.

Grant Long, former exec at Swyft Media, the startup that turns stickers into cash, joined Biaoqing Yun as chief strategy officer earlier this year. Monotype Imaging acquired the New York city-based startup in 2015. After leaving Swyft Media, Grant spent time studying the market, the competition, and the team before finally deciding to join.

“You have to be foolish to ignore the growth and economic opportunities that abound in China. The country has a massive population of highly connected mobile internet users, with rising incomes and a propensity to spend,” Grant said. “This is also the core of the biaoqing phenomenon that has since expanded to all other parts of the world, yet hasn’t been commercialized in China yet.”

“But the factor that made this an easy decision for me was finding a very capable and experienced team of friendly, trustworthy people that I felt great about taking a risk with,” he added. “Any new venture is risky; the best way to beat the odds and be extremely successful is to work with a great team.”

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.