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Gen Z photo app Swipewipe is acquired by French publisher MWM in the company’s largest acquisition to date

Swipewipe, the American photo management app that has become wildly popular with Gen Z, thanks in part to TikTok, has been acquired. French mobile app publisher and developer MWM is bringing the app in-house, having previously worked with Swipewipe’s independent developer Adam O’Kane to grow the app’s usage. The acquisition enables Swipewipe’s founders to profit from the app while continuing to benefit financially from their work through an ongoing revenue-sharing agreement with MWM.

While the exit price has not been disclosed, O’Kane praised MWM for being able to sell the app for a life-changing sum of money without having to give up on its future success.

“If I were a developer… I heard there was such a business, [MWM] Help the app developers/entrepreneurs do what they want to do and they’ll take care of the rest – it’s very compelling,” O’Kane said.

But like most companies that become overnight successes, Swipewipe was not.

Image Source: Slide Wipe

O’Kane said he started working on social apps when he was 17. He is 34 now.

After his daughter was born a few years ago, the founder realized that instead of chasing home runs, why not go for softer wins, like singles or doubles? That led him to focus on Swipewipe, a photo management app that gamifies the process of clearing unwanted photos from your iPhone’s camera roll.

Deleting old photos is a common behavior among Gen Z, who may have grown up with phones that lack storage space and tend to view photos differently than previous generations. Gen Z is more likely to use photos to show themselves to the world and capture a moment when posting on social media, but they don’t necessarily want to archive photos long-term. They also regularly clear photos from their Instagram accounts.

While O’Kane admits that Swipewipe is far from the first photo cleanup app, he envisions attracting users by making the whole process more fun, almost like a game.

“I envisioned these big, colorful tiles to give users a clear picture of their progress — because it’s a difficult task,” he said. “One problem I did find with other apps is that they don’t have interrupts. [photo cleanup] Break it down into manageable pieces.”

In 2021, O’Kane worked with a contractor who helped develop the app while he designed the interface and provided product management. The app launched on app discovery site Product Hunt the following year but gained only a small following.

Image Source: Slide Wipe

That’s when MWM, a company O’Kane had never heard of, reached out to him. The French company was launching its new publishing platform, working with third-party studios to provide ad spend and monetization support. After examining Swipewipe’s metrics and doing some qualitative testing, MWM added Swipewipe to its plans and began working directly with O’Kane.

However, the app did not go live immediately, something MWM had warned might be the case.

However, freed from the commercial side of things, O’Kane can focus on the product while continuing to own the app. While Swipewipe’s attempt to monetize via interstitial ads failed last year (and was later removed), its subscription model, combined with native advertising, has been a success. The app has now been downloaded over 5 million times, and MWM expects iOS revenue alone to exceed €10 million this year, largely due to Swipewipe’s subscription revenue.

As the app grew, it gained more and more public attention. Swipewipe was featured on KTLA TV in Los Angeles. By summer, the numbers began to soar: The app went from 15,000 monthly active users in July to 300,000 two months later. In December, TechCrunch Consider it a hidden gem of the App Store.

O’Kane remembers seeing teenagers using his app while waiting in line for rides at an amusement park, and he likens it to a musician hearing his song on the radio for the first time.

“It felt really great. I was thinking, my gosh, they could be on Instagram, Snap, TikTok, and they chose to use my little app in this long roller coaster line. It felt great,” he said.

The app later became popular on TikTok as well, and Swipewipe and MWM subsequently launched paid advertising campaigns. Today, Swipewipe has more than one million active users per month.

The deal will allow O’Kane to receive a share of its ongoing profits in addition to selling its applications to MWM.

“We feel really good about it. We’re not exhausted at all. There’s a lot of things I want to add to the app because… I think we’ve only just scratched the surface,” O’Kane said. “I think it’s a category that people overlook… For me, it was just a little bit of practicality at first. But really, photos are our lives. Who doesn’t have a messy camera roll? We have all these great memories and things locked up in these photo grids. I want people to not only clean them up, but resurface and reinterpret these memories.”

Image Source: Microwave microwave modulation

For more than a decade, MWM has been operating as an app development studio, developing around 30 apps in categories such as music, coloring, painting, video editing, including the most downloaded DJ app Edjing Mix. Just before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, MWM raised around €50 million in Series B funding and decided to transform from an app development studio to an app publisher, using its 10 years of app development knowledge to help others succeed. As a publisher, MWM currently works with more than 350 app development studios. So far, MWM says it has generated $600 million in revenue and expanded its app catalog to 50 apps today.

“The idea is simple. We help developers find the secret to unlocking the App Store,” said Jean-Baptise Hironde, CEO of MWM. “It’s simple. We work with them on three main levels: monetization, product and user acquisition, which are the three pillars to unlock the App Store.”

To find apps, MWM uses marketing intelligence tools, searching for apps with good KPIs, good ratings, and good usage. It then contacts developers with the promise of potentially more than tripling the app’s revenue. For testing, developers integrate with MWM’s SDK, which enables the company to run basic user acquisition tests. Depending on business results, developers may be offered an agreement. The company continues to support developers with its technology, including AI technology, to further scale apps.

While Swipewipe isn’t MWM’s first acquisition (it has bought other studios before), it’s its largest yet, and one that MWM hopes will attract the attention of other developers also looking for help.

MWM hopes the deal with Swipewipe will be a good showcase for what it can do for developers, as it’s hard for small teams to succeed right now due to privacy changes and the likes of Apple and Google.

“The situation is different now. That’s why we want to put forward our skills and our journey over the past ten years and help [developers] to build something greater. We share the same mission: we want to get apps and amazing experiences into the hands of millions of people,” said Hironde.

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