Japanese mobile developer Cinnamon raises $1.5 million, launching new photo app



See the original story in Japanese.

Spicy Cinnamon (Cinnamon for short), the startup behind the photo sharing app Seconds, announced today that it has raised 150 million yen (approximately $1.47 million) from CyberAgent Ventures, TBS Innovation Partners [1], Incubate Fund, and Golden Gate Ventures. Coinciding with this funding, the company has launched a new iOS app today called PicChat. [2] An Android version will follow soon.

Cinnamon was launched back in 2012, led by Miku Hirano who previously work with Naked Technology, which was acquired by Mixi in 2011. The company securing seed funding from CyberAgent Ventures and several angel investors. Our readers may recall that the company pitched its Seconds app at Startup Asia Jakarta last April.

The app appears to be doing well with over 200,000 downloads across the Asia region, including Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore, so I’m curious why they are moving on to a new app. I had a chance to speak with the company’s co-founder and CEO Miku Hirano to find out more.

Cinnamon CEO Miku Hirano

We’ve been looking at our Seconds users for almost an year since launch, and we’ve learned how they typically behave. We target women around the age of 25 in the South East Asian region, and we found that they are using our app not for saving memories in photos, but rather for real-time communication. For them, they can’t be bothered to key in texts when uploading a photo, so our new app allows you to add a short audio clip with the app. That’s PicChat.

I thought the Seconds app was a completed product to share photos among intimate friends. But it seems that Cinnamon has been treating it as a test marketing process for the next step. Considering the Seconds app has acquired more than 200,000 users to date, we can expect the new app to have a more rapid user expansion since based on user feedback.

In this space, I think Vietnam and Korea saturated by Korean apps like Kakao Talk. So we expect to take over Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand with the new app. To help in user acquisition, we hired a number of students from top Asian universities as interns. We believe in their potential in terms of their viral marketing skills.

As we’ve learned from China’s ClassBox, which reached 1 million downloads its first month, a viral effect can happen in a student network. It could be interesting to see if Cinnamon can win the interest of the younger generation in this way.

Cinnamon will shut down the Seconds app in the future and shift all their resources to their PicChat app. We understand that they will keep focusing on user acquisition this year, and will start monetization by selling stickers and ads after 2015.

picchat_screenshot1 picchat_screenshot2

  1. The investment arm of Tokyo Broadcasting System
  2. The company has bases in Tokyo and Hanoi, but is registered in Singapore.