Barbie selfie startup’s $500M valuation exposes the power of memes

Barbie selfie startup’s $500M valuation exposes the power of memes


A French startup acclaimed for a Barbie selfie generator has raised $43mn round at a $500mn valuation in a showcase for meme magic.

Paris-based Photoroom raised the eye-popping sums in a Series B round led by Balderton Capital and French VC Aglaé Ventures. Y-Combinator also contributed to the cash injection, which brings Photoroom’s total funding to a cool $64mn.

The startup claims to have developed the world’s most popular AI photo editor. Since launching in 2019, the app has been downloaded over 150 million times, according to Photoroom.

Unlike most AI startups, the company has trained its own models from scratch. It also just unveiled a new foundation model built for product photography.

Impressive stuff, no doubt, but the meme magic emerged from a different source: the Barbie selfie maker.

Barbie and AI create a winning formula

Launched to promote the Oscar-winning film, the generator superimposes profile photos onto a Barbie movie poster. Users can also add a customised caption.

To create the app, Barbie distributor Warner Bros tapped PhotoRoom’s API. The tool took less than an hour to implement but quickly sparked a viral meme.

Celebrities from Rihanna to Pedro Pascal joined fans, brands, and influencers in producing Barbie selfies. Within a few months of its release, the generator had been used over 13 million times.

Photoroom, however, was keen to emphasise that the startup’s strengths extend beyond Barbie memes. Matthieu Rouif, the company’s co-founder and CEO, highlighted the potential of the new foundation model.

“The foundation model is the next step in empowering businesses to create amazing product photos without the need to be an expert at prompt engineering or photography,” he said. “Our model has been trained to excel at product photography and can quickly adapt to user needs and feedback.”

As for that bulging new bag of cash, Photoroom plans to spend the funding on upgrading the startup’s tech, team, and image data — as well, as presumably, more meme magic.


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