Bitstrips CEO Jacob "Ba" Blackstock wants to bring the emotion back to texting, and he thinks the answer is to turn you into your own personal emoji.
Bitstrips originally started out as an easy way for people to create their own comics featuring their likeness to share on social media sites like Facebook. It's since expanded into its own Facebook and mobile app, but after emojis exploded onto the scene, Blackstock and the Bitstrips team wanted to bring the user out of the comic and into their phones as their own emoji.
"Texting is making conversation more convenient than ever, but it's also stripped away a lot of the things that make communication human," Blackstock told Business Insider. "We think one of the most important things that's still missing is identity. If you think about history, 99 percent of human communication has been face-to-face."
To remedy this problem, Blackstock and the Bitstrips team have created Bitmoji, an iPhone and Android keyboard that allows you to design an emoji avatar in your own likeness. And since Bitmoji is a keyboard app, your own emoji follows you everywhere your keyboard goes, allowing you to use your Bitmoji avatar within your favorite messaging apps such as iMessage and WhatsApp.
"We've found that people love designing their avatars," said Blackstock. "Bitmoji puts the face or identity back into communication. If you and I are having a conversation with Bitmojis, it's totally unique."
Blackstock says people can take as short or long a time customizing their Bitmoji as they'd like: You can import an existing Bitstrips avatar and convert it over to the new art style of Bitmoji, or start from scratch and choose everything from your hairstyle and outfit down to the smaller details like lipstick color.
So far, Bitmoji has managed to get some big names using its service: Seth Rogen, John Mayer, Victoria Beckham, Lena Dunham, and Zach Braff have all used the app to create their own emojis.
The app has also seen success in the App Store, where it consistently ranks in the top 10 utility apps, according to ranking data from App Annie.
And while the traditional emojis found on your phone receive only occasional updates, Blackstock says the ability to launch weekly updates allows the team to keep Bitmoji fresh so its users can discuss everything from the infamous Left Shark during Katy Perry's Super Bowl performance to what color "The Dress" really is.
"Bitmoji is real-time, so while people have literally been waiting for new emojis for years, we’re releasing new bitmojis every week," Blackstock says. "We've even been able to release Bitmojis in less than 24 hours before."
Bitmoji has developed quite the following as a result of it's unique features, and Blackstock says its fans have continued using Bitmoji over traditional emojis because it's managed to meet the need for a more personal form of texting.
"People are saying 'This is replacing emojis for me' or even 'This is replacing texting and I’m only sending bitmojis to my friends,'" Blackstock said. "I really believe Bitmoji is the next level beyond emoji--and what we're seeing from users is that they're not looking back."