Shark Tank Host Launches Crowdfunding Site For TikTok Buy

Kevin O’Leary, a businessman known as a host of the reality programme Shark Tank, has launched a crowdfunding effort to gauge investor interest as part of his bid to try to buy ByteDance-owned TikTok.

The Canadian-born investor known on the programme as “Mr. Wonderful” due to his skeptical persona, said the item on the StartEngine crowdfunding site was part of “his quest to make TikTok an American-owned company”.

The site is not currently accepting funds, but allows anyone to reserve spots to potentially become investors in a US version of TikTok.

StartEngine lists the item as a “Regulation A+ Test the Waters” offering, meaning it is open to the public.

Image credit: StartEngine

‘Sharp business acumen’

If a fundraising campaign were to kick off it would be subject to US rules limiting investors to people who earn more than $200,000 (£157,000) or have specific finance qualifications.

The offering, titled “Mr. Wonderful’s Plan to Buy TikTok”, describes O’Leary as a “renowned entrepreneur known for his sharp business acumen” who launched and sold software firm The Learning Company for $3.8bn.

“I’d like to democratise TikTok and turn it into a platform where the user data is protected from the prying eyes of foreign adversaries,” O’Leary said in a video that he posted on Instagram.

Earlier this month US lawmakers passed a measure that would ban TikTok from the country on 19 January unless the platform is divested from Beijing-based parent ByteDance, citing national security concerns.

TikTok, ByteDance and a group of US TikTok content creators have challenged the law on the grounds that it unconstitutionally limits free speech, and the case is to receive a hearing in federal court in September.

O’Leary is a host of reality programme Shark Tank alongside Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec. Image credit: ABC

‘I’m gonna buy it’

O’Leary first indicated his interest in buying TikTok in March, telling Fox News the platform is “not going to get banned because I’m gonna buy it”.

“Somebody’s going to buy it. It won’t be Meta, and it won’t be Google because a regulator will stop that,” he said at the time.

Later in March he said his starting bid would be $20bn to $30bn, 90 percent below the company’s valuation in its latest funding round.

ByteDance has said it has no intention of selling TikTok.

Even if it wished to do so, the platform would be likely to be divested without the company’s signature front page algorithm, which is the same used in ByteDance’s much larger Chinese products and is registered under Chinese law, making it next to impossible to disentangle from ByteDance’s Chinese business, according to a Reuters report citing unnamed sources.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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