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Gen Z photos app Swipewipe sells to French publisher MWM in its largest acquisition to date
June 30, 2024

Gen Z photos app Swipewipe sells to French publisher MWM in its largest acquisition to date

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Swipewipe, a U.S.-based photo management app that went viral among the Gen Z crowd, thanks in part to TikTok, is being acquired. French mobile app publisher and developer MWM is bringing the app in-house, after previously working with Swipewipe’s indie developer, Adam O’Kane, to grow the app’s usage. The acquisition allows Swipewipe’s founder to take some money off the table while also continuing to benefit financially from his work via an ongoing revenue-sharing agreement with MWM.

While the exit price is undisclosed, O’Kane is singing MWM’s praises, having been able to sell the app for life-changing money without having to give up on its future success.

‘If I was the developer … and I heard about this business where [MWM] helped put an app developer/entrepreneur in a position to do what they want to do, and they’ll take care of the other stuff — it’s pretty compelling,’ O’Kane said.

But like most overnight successes, Swipewipe was anything but.

O’Kane says he’s been tinkering with social apps since he was 17 years old. He’s now 34.

After his daughter was born a few years ago, the founder had realized that instead of swinging for a home run, why not go for a more modest win, like a single or a double? That led him to focus on Swipewipe, a photo management app that gamified the process of clearing out unwanted photos from your iPhone’s Camera Roll.

Deleting older photos is a common activity among the Gen Z crowd, who may have grown up with phones lacking storage space, and who tend to think about photos in a different way than older generations. Gen Z is more likely to use photos to present themselves to the world and capture a moment in time when posting on social media, but they don’t necessarily want to archive photos for the long term. They also regularly purge their Instagram accounts of photos, as well.

While O’Kane admits that Swipewipe was far from being the first photo cleanup app, he imagined an experience that would appeal to users by making the process more fun, almost like a game.

‘I pictured these big, colorful blocks making it very clear to the user how their progress was going — because it was a huge task,’ he said. ‘One issue I did see with other apps that were available is that they didn’t break [photo cleanup] down into this manageable way.’

In 2021, O’Kane teamed up with a contractor who aided in the app’s development, while he designed the interface and ran product management. The app launched on the app discovery site Product Hunt the following year but only gained a modest following.

That’s when a company O’Kane had never heard of before, MWM, reached out. The French firm pitched its new publishing platform where it worked with third-party studios to provide ad spend and monetization support. After checking Swipewipe’s metrics and performing some qualitative testing, MWM accepted Swipewipe into its program and began working directly with O’Kane.

Still, the app didn’t hit right away, which MWM had cautioned could be the case.

However, being freed up from the business side of things allowed O’Kane to focus on the product as he continued to own the app. Despite a failed attempt at monetizing via interstitial ads last year, which were later removed, Swipewipe found traction with its subscription model, combined with native ads. The app now has over 5 million downloads, and MWM is now projecting more than €10 million in revenue this year, for iOS alone, thanks largely to Swipewipe’s subscription revenue.

During this time, O’Kane remembers having a moment when he was waiting in line for a ride at an amusement park and saw some teens using his app. He likens it to the first time a musician hears their song on the radio.

‘It felt really good. And I was just thinking, man, they could be on Instagram, on Snap, TikTok, and they’re choosing — in this long roller-coaster line — to use my little app. It was just such a cool feeling,’ he says.

The app also later went viral on TikTok and then Swipewipe and MWM followed that up with paid campaigns. Today, Swipewipe has over a million monthly active users.

In addition to being able to sell his app to MWM, O’Kane will be able to earn a share of its ongoing profits, thanks to the deal.

‘We feel so good about it. We’re not burnt out one bit. I’ve got so many things I want us to add to the app, because … I see us just scratching the surface,’ O’Kane said. ‘I think it was the category so overlooked by people … for me, initially too, just a little utility. But really, photos are our lives. And who doesn’t have a messy Camera Roll? We have all these wonderful memories and things locked up in these grids of photos. I want to not just let people clean them up, but kind of resurface, recontextualize these memories.’

For over a decade, MWM has been operating as an app development studio that produced around 30 apps in categories like music, coloring, drawing, video editing and more, including the most-downloaded DJ app, Edjing Mix. Just before COVID-19 hit, MWM raised around 50 million euros in Series B funding and decided to move from being an app development studio alone to also become an app publisher, leveraging its 10 years of app development knowledge to help others succeed. As a publisher, MWM now works with over 350 app development studios. To date, MWM says it’s generated $600 million in revenue and has grown its own catalog of apps to now 50.

‘The idea is very simple. We help developers to find the secret key to unlock the App Store,’ said MWM CEO Jean-Baptise Hironde. ‘It’s very easy. We are working with them on three main layers: the monetization, the product, and the user acquisition, which are the three main pillars to unlock the App Store.’

To find apps, MWM uses marketing intelligence tools, searching for apps with good KPIs, good ratings and decent usage. It then contacts the developer with promises to potentially more than triple the app’s revenue. To run through its tests, developers integrate with MWM’s SDK, which allows the company to run basic user acquisition tests. Based on the business results, the developer may be offered an agreement. The company continues to support the developer with its technology, including AI tech, to scale the app further.

Though Swipewipe isn’t MWM’s first acquisition — it previously has acquired other studios — it is the largest, and one that MWM hopes will put its name on the map for other developers looking for assistance in a similar way.

MWM hopes the deal with Swipewipe will be a good showcase of what it can bring to the developer, at a time when it’s harder to succeed as a small team due to privacy changes and more on both Apple and Google’s part.

‘It’s not like back in the day. So that’s why we want to propose our skills and our 10-year journey and help [developers] to build something bigger. And we have the same mission: we want to push apps and amazing experiences to millions of people’s hands,’ Hironde said.


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