A technology marketing expert says social media giant Snapchat purchased Toronto-based Bitstrips for a reported US$100 million because the start-up’s personalized emojis will make Snapchat more attractive to advertisers.

Andy Walker, senior strategist at Cyberwalker.com, told CTV News Channel he believes film companies, for example, will pay “real money” to allow anyone to insert his or her cartoon likeness into sharable content that promotes their movies.

Walker explained that Bitstrips has taken off in popularity because of the ability to “create a little icon of yourself with your hair type and your nose and … inject it with a smiling face or a sad face … and then share that with your friends.”

“If you talk to perhaps 100 teenagers, I think you’ll probably find the majority are aware of it and maybe half are users,” he said.

Walker said he thinks Bitstrips “stumbled into a business model.”

Comments made by co-founders Jacob Blackstock and Shahan Panth to The Associated Press suggest the same.

The high school friends started the company in 2007, with the goal of creating a comic-strip version of YouTube.

Although they had a loyal niche audience with a desktop version, the company didn’t grow substantially until 2013, when Bitstrips launched an application for iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

By 2014, the company had 17 employees, a $3-million investment from Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, and more than 30 million users across 90 countries.

Last fall, Bitstrips partnered with Disney to allow anyone to put himself or herself into a cartoon version of a scene from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and share it in a social media message. Users could choose from half-a-dozen options including co-piloting the Millennium Falcon, wielding a lightsaber or donning a Jedi robe.