Anyone over 30 who spends time on TikTok probably runs into plenty of content aimed at other demographics, but Dallas-based Clapper is trying to provide a place exclusively for adults to interact with a similar content format.
As questions about the future of TikTok persist, Clapper is becoming one of the fastest-growing social networking apps. The company doesn’t see itself as a direct competitor to the Chinese-owned short-form video giant TikTok but as a place where communities can connect through short, edited videos.
The company launched in 2020 with less than 10,000 daily active users and grew steadily until 2022 when it crested more than 100,000 daily active users. In 2023, that number has tripled to 300,000 users per day—and at times, the app has been ranked as the top social networking app on the Apple Store.
Chen said he has attracted plenty of attention from venture capital firms looking to add the app to their portfolio, but he says he is focused on building the company step by step and ensuring it continues to be profitable. The company started with an initial funding round of just $4 million but hasn’t raised additional funds since then.
Founder Edison Chen is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas. He has a background in finance and was a vice president of products for various consumer technology companies. As Chen watched the growth of TikTok over the last few years, he saw how most social networks targeted Gen Z and younger users. So he designed a place where older users could connect with like-minded communities via short-form videos and live streaming.
When users launch a Clapper account, they identify specific communities they align with (think barbecue, sports, real estate, or farmers). They are then exposed to curated content with a similar interface to TikTok. The app allows users to filter by location and connect with local creators. Another difference is that creators are not paid for views like TikTok or YouTube, where creators are given a cut of the profits based on the number of views. Instead, Clapper helps creators to set up their monetization through membership programs or selling things via the platform.
Chen also noted that even though adults make the content, there is no adult content. The company’s explosive growth has been organic so far, and Chen said they hadn’t spent any money on advertising.
But with questions about the future of TikTok in the United States growing, Clapper’s numbers have grown. Because of security threats, President Joe Biden and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle want TikTok to be sold or face an outright ban in the United States, though that may not be possible. In February, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that TikTok would be banned on any state-issued device in the statewide plan, including cell phones, tablets, and all computers. But Chen says he doesn’t want TikTok banned. “We respect what TikTok is in the creator economy,” he said. “We don’t see it as direct competition as we are more community-based. We are not creating for everyone.”
The app is already active in 40 primarily English-speaking countries, but Chen hopes to expand its language capabilities and grow its global footprint. Moreover, the app isn’t limiting itself to building a digital community. This summer, Clapper will host its first creator meet-up in Dallas, where for two days, creators from all over the world will gather to make content, network, and have a Texas-themed party.
“We want to create a space for the older generations to feel more comfortable,” Chen said. “The parents of TikTok users can express themselves.”