App firm seeks sustainability for its 'couples network'

Tech June 03, 2014 00:00

By Asina Pornwasin
The Nation

6,904 Viewed

Over 3 million across the world use Korean app "between", 7% in SE Asia

The popularity of Value Creators & Company’s mobile app “Between” in Thailand is helping the South Korean firm towards its goal of becoming Asia’s biggest “couples network”. 
Between is a mobile application where couples can create and share memories privately and securely. After its launch just over two and a half years ago, 3.5 million couples worldwide now use Between to chat and share photos and memos. About 7 per cent of its users are in Southeast Asia, and Thailand is the largest and fastest-growing market for Between in the region.
“We have grown well in the Korean market, and it’s time to accelerate our growth in other markets,” said VCNC chief executive officer and co-founder Jake Park, 28. 
“Fortunately, as part of our efforts, we are growing well in Japan, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. We will focus on these organically growing countries in Asia to begin with [and then] start to actively expand into newer markets as we create a firm foundation in countries we currently focus on.” 
One of the key missions is sustainability. To fulfil this goal, it is developing an open application programming interface (API) so third-party developers can help add value to its platform. This will create a healthy ecosystem that is self-sustainable, with new developments delivered quickly to users. 
“As this virtuous cycle is completed, Between will become the most attractive partner to industries whose main customers are couples, where we see great potential as a business. 
“We think this will actively take place as we launch our API during the summer of 2014,” Park said.
He added that it would optimise monetisation models through m-commerce and advertising.
“Korea is our test bed for monetisation plans, where we are accumulating know-how and optimising them. As we develop solid business models, we plan to apply them in other markets that are ready for adoption.”
He said Thailand was a very attractive market in terms of population and smartphone penetration. VCNC believes the market will grow and provide greater opportunities for businesses throughout this year. To this end, it has been working with local partners Tarad Dot Com and Wongnai.
“We want to develop a healthy ecosystem with our partners in Thailand and are excited to take part in this growth. I have been hearing that Google Play has recognised steep growth in the Thailand market and we also are feeling the same growth through the quick adoption of our service in Thailand.” 
VCNC (Singapore) general manager Joash Wee said e-commerce was the company’s monetisation strategy. Initially, it partnered with brands through its Event Box feature. Another key feature that can be monetised is the sticker store. 
Between’s key features are fast, secure and private one-to-one chat; a private photo album that allows couples to store and share their intimate moments with each other; weather updates bringing couples closer together by visually showing the weather they are experiencing; and a shared calendar to plan dates, notify partners about key appointments or travel schedules, and to keep track of special days like anniversaries and birthdays.
Since launching the app, the company has gone through three rounds of funding, beginning with Softbank Ventures Korea’s seed funding of US$1 million (Bt33 million). That was followed by a $3-million in series A (initial venture) round from Softbank Ventures Korea, Stonebridge Capital, KTB Networks, and Capstone Partners, and a non-disclosed amount of series B funding from DeNA, Global Brain, 500 Startups, Stonebridge Capital, and KTB Networks. 
Park insisted that an exit plan is not of much interest to the company. Its focus is just to build a sustainable company by creating a platform that is used globally. 
“We are not yet planning to raise more funds, since we have recently closed our latest round of funding. However, if there are any partners that can help us grow in new markets, we are open to discussion on working together,” he said.