How DecoAlbum plans to be the best of many cute Japanese photo apps [Interview]



When I first met up with the folks behind DecoAlbum, I thought maybe it was just another photo app. Japanese startups have developed so many photo sharing apps, and most of them hope to hit the South East Asian market. So I was wondering if this space hasn’t already been saturated.

However DecoAlbum was one of the standouts at the recent Echelon Tokyo satellite event, and it was also chosen to be included in the first batch of NTT Docomo’s incubation program.

So what’s so special about DecoAlbum? We sought out the app’s developer, Prime Again, to find out more. We spoke with the company’s CEO Nobuhiro Abe and his right hand Maiko Kojima.

Tell us about you and your team?

Nobuhiro: We were teamed up in 2010 when we developed a cloud-based contact sharing app at Breakthrough Camp, a two-month app and business development camp for university students and aspiring entrepreneurs. Then we were incorporated in December of 2010, and subsequently developed the app with students from Waseda University and Digital Hollywood University.

We’ve seen many similar photo sharing apps. What makes DecoAlbum different?

PrimeAgain’s Maiko Kojima pitches at Echelon Tokyo Satellite. (April, 2013)

Maiko: We’re a team of students, and that’s our target user base. That’s why we’ve learned so much about what our users really want to have. When we’re observing our friends using photo apps, they typically use one app for photo collage and another for decoration. So before uploading photos to their walls or timelines, they typically use two photo apps at least. The number of apps capable of both collage and decoration is very few, maybe even zero, because it’s difficult to manage and optimize memory usage for handling photos on smartphones. But we made it.

DecoAlbum allows users to both create collages and decorate with a single app. In terms of differentiation, there is also a storage function. Our app is not only a photo decoration and collage app but features storage on its backend. […] You can create as many albums as you want, and share anything stored photos with your friends or family members via Facebook, Line, or other social media.

Do you have any metrics to share about how your app has performed so far?

Nobuhiro: The app was launched in late June of 2012, and we’ve seen more than 1.2 million downloads in 8 months.

Is your user base different from other photo sharing apps?

Maiko: Our user base ranges from junior high school girls to housewives, especially those who prefer cute or elegant fashions. We’ve been acquiring users from the Southeast Asian market as well, mainly from housewives in their 20s. Our app is now available in Japanese, English, Mandarin, Korean, and Thai.

So are you making any specific marketing efforts elsewhere in Asia?

Primeagain CEO Nobuhiro Abe
PrimeAgain CEO Nobuhiro Abe

Nobuhiro: We have never done any paid promotions. So we’re honored to have seen such positive results. The usual acquisition of our user base has been entirely word-of-month, and we will partner with other mobile app developers to take things a step further. One of our strength is providing cute stickers designed from our awesome designers, and that has been very popular with our users, and it can be also used when messaging in other apps. We’ll be providing our specially designed stickers to some partner mobile apps, including Korea’s Between, a mobile photo sharing app for couples. We’re in talks with some other developers about providing stickers, an arrangement we feel benefits both parties.

How will you monetize? Do you have any exit strategy?

Nobuhiro: We’re partnering with Foglio (a photo processing platform run by Fujifilm) and mobile photo-processing company Tolot so that our users can print their pictures [1]. We’re also in talks with Photobook Thailand to give our users a better experience in Southeast Asian regions. Regarding the exit, we have no concrete plan at this moment beyond increasing our user base. We recently fundraised 10 million yen (approximately $100,000) from East Ventures, which might be sufficient to survive for the time being. We don’t want to [target] acquisition by another party, but expect to go straight ahead to an IPO exit.

DecoAlbum is certainly a very powerful app in terms of functions. Combining photo collage and decoration is not an issue that we hear many people complaining about, but based on DecoAlbum’s download numbers it looks to be a surprisingly significant problem. Will DecoAlbum remain the only real solution in this space? Let’s wait and see.

The DecoAlbum development team

  1. Tolot recently fundraised 500 million yen from KDDI Open Innovation Fund.  ↩