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Quan, creating messaging characters, snags $3.6M to strengthen China, Thai expansion

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See the original story in Japanese. Tokyo- / Bangkok- / Shanghai-based Quan, the Japanese startup creating and offering character stickers for online messaging, announced today that it has raised 400 million yen (about $3.6 million) in the latest round. Participating investors are Nissay Capital, ABC Dream Ventures, OLM Ventures (a subsidiary of Imagica Group), Mizuho Capital, SMBC Venture Capital and CiP (Contents Innovation Program). The amount of the fund includes loans from Sumitomo Mitsui Bank and Mizuho Bank. This follows their funding from Japanese film and theater production company Toho back in 2017 (Nikkei reported it was about $450,000), several million dollars from six VC firms back in 2014, and an undisclosed sum from Netprice.com and East Ventures back in 2012. All these bring Quan’s total funding raised so far to about 800 million yen (about $7.2 million). With the latest funding, the firm focuses on establishment of character licensing business, acceleration of the merchandise business and character development for VTuber, blockchain, and other new technology-based services. Quan was founded by the current CEO Kazuhiro Mizuno in 2011. The firm initially focused on the Lounge message app targeting the Asian market but subsequently pivoted to the character sticker creation business…

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The Quan team
Image credit: Quan

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo- / Bangkok- / Shanghai-based Quan, the Japanese startup creating and offering character stickers for online messaging, announced today that it has raised 400 million yen (about $3.6 million) in the latest round. Participating investors are Nissay Capital, ABC Dream Ventures, OLM Ventures (a subsidiary of Imagica Group), Mizuho Capital, SMBC Venture Capital and CiP (Contents Innovation Program). The amount of the fund includes loans from Sumitomo Mitsui Bank and Mizuho Bank.

This follows their funding from Japanese film and theater production company Toho back in 2017 (Nikkei reported it was about $450,000), several million dollars from six VC firms back in 2014, and an undisclosed sum from Netprice.com and East Ventures back in 2012. All these bring Quan’s total funding raised so far to about 800 million yen (about $7.2 million). With the latest funding, the firm focuses on establishment of character licensing business, acceleration of the merchandise business and character development for VTuber, blockchain, and other new technology-based services.

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Quan’s characters
Image credit: quan

Quan was founded by the current CEO Kazuhiro Mizuno in 2011. The firm initially focused on the Lounge message app targeting the Asian market but subsequently pivoted to the character sticker creation business in 2012. Their unique characters became popular as distributing them to major messaging apps like Line, Facebook (Facebook Messenger), WeChat and KakaoTalk. As of December of 2018, their stickers have been downloaded over 2.6 billion times while the total number of exchanged messages containing their stickers has exceeded 24 billion to date.

Gaining the popularity of their characters by distributing stickers foe free, Quan monetize through merchandising sales and letting enterprises to use these characters for their promotional activities. With the establishment of local subsidiaries in Thailand and China, the startup has begun their business operations in these markets since around 2017. Both of the heads of the two subsidiaries are still 26, and we could interview them to hear about their recent business development in each market.

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LtoR: Masato Okugawa (Head, Quan Thailand), Kazuhiro Mizuno (CEO, Quan), Munetaka Sato (Head, Quan China)
Image credit: Quan

Munetaka Sato was working for Quan while at Keio University in Japan but once left the company at the time of his graduation. After finihshing studying at Beijing University, he started his business and came back to Quan to support their sales force as an outsourcing contractor. Having been targeting the Chinese market since around 2013, Quan decided to appoint Sato as the head of Quan China (可澳恩信息技术) for their full-scale operation. Sato has been managing the startup’s business in China for two years.

While Quan China covers business in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the business movement has been moving northward from southern China. In Hong Kong, the startup succeeded to tie up with a local shopping mall while their flagship character was chosen for Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s online promotion campaign. The counterfeit goods problem is a major concern for IP (intellectual property) businesses in China, but Sato explains that IP business environment in China has been gradually improved and monetization has become easier in recent years as unlicensed products are being eliminated in the market. Since Alibaba established the Alifish copyright trading platform, Quan China became able to grasp the exact monthly sales numbers of their character goods on Taobao.

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Team of Quan China
Image credit: Quan

Since his graduation from Thammasat University in Bangkok, Masato Okugawa, had served Quan as a director of mobile game development. He was subsequently appointed as Quan’s business manager in the Thai market. In the Southeast Asian market where Quan Thailand covers, the Korean entertainment industry’s business expansion strategy, such as allowing local companies to use K-POP content for free at first but subsequently recouping the initial investment by monetizing through merchandise, is doing well. Since the character business born out of internet culture looks slightly challenging in the region it may be hard to make money with licensing deals only. They are looking to monetize by having their characters used for companies’ promotional activities.

Mizuno told us that some companies have been hiring Japanese advisors and introducing cartoon characters born out of internet culture such as Ali the Fox (阿狸) and Budding Pop (长草颜団子) but few companies have secured funding with the character sticker business in the Chinese market. He talked about a future plan to strengthen the startup’s sales department to monetize these opportunities, aiming to grow it as another Sanrio that can link online and offline businesses.

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Team of Quan Thailand
Image credit: Quan

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by Masaru Ikeda

Japanese mobile app developer Quan raises several million dollars

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Tokyo-based Quan, the Japanese startup behind mobile apps like MyStickerShop and Lounge, announced today that it has fundraised from Daiwa Corporate Investment, East Ventures, Dentsu Digital Holdings, IMJ Investment partners, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital, and Senshu Ikeda Capital. Funding details have not been disclosed but it’s likely worth around several million US dollars. Daiwa Corporate Investment and East Ventures have participated in the past rounds. Quan will use the money to strengthen business operations in Southeast Asia. See also: How a small Japanese startup is helping Thailand’s biggest telco win new 3G subscribers WeChat turns to Japanese startup Quan for mobile sticker content Since its launch in 2011, Quan has launched smartphone app MyStickerShop in partnership with Thailand’s leading telco AIS, as well as developed the Japanese versions of popular mobile games from Thai developers such as Kiragames, PocketPlayLab, and PromptNow. The company fundraised an undisclosed sum from Japanese e-commerce giant Netprice.com and investment company East Ventures in 2012. In August this year, Quan invested in Bangkok-based game startup Magic Box Asia.

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Tokyo-based Quan, the Japanese startup behind mobile apps like MyStickerShop and Lounge, announced today that it has fundraised from Daiwa Corporate Investment, East Ventures, Dentsu Digital Holdings, IMJ Investment partners, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Venture Capital, and Senshu Ikeda Capital. Funding details have not been disclosed but it’s likely worth around several million US dollars. Daiwa Corporate Investment and East Ventures have participated in the past rounds. Quan will use the money to strengthen business operations in Southeast Asia.

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Since its launch in 2011, Quan has launched smartphone app MyStickerShop in partnership with Thailand’s leading telco AIS, as well as developed the Japanese versions of popular mobile games from Thai developers such as Kiragames, PocketPlayLab, and PromptNow. The company fundraised an undisclosed sum from Japanese e-commerce giant Netprice.com and investment company East Ventures in 2012. In August this year, Quan invested in Bangkok-based game startup Magic Box Asia.

Japan’s Quan invests in Thailand’s mobile game startup Magic Box Asia

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Tokyo-based Quan, the Japanese startup behind mobile apps like MyStickerShop and Lounge, announced today that it has invested in Bangkok-based game startup Magic Box Asia. Magic Box Asia was founded by Vincent Setiwan, co-founder of Bangkok’s co-working space Launchpad and the co-founder of Japanese anime creation crowdfunding site Anipipo. The company provides a smartphone game platform and app localization service for the Southeast Asian region with an emphasis on the Thai market. Since its launch in 2011, Quan has launched smartphone app MyStickerShop in partnership with Thailand’s leading telco AIS, as well as developed the Japanese versions of popular mobile games from Thai developers such as Kiragames, PocketPlayLab, and PromptNow. The company fundraised an undisclosed sum from Japanese e-commerce giant Netprice.com and investment company East Ventures in 2012. See also: How a small Japanese startup is helping Thailand’s biggest telco win new 3G subscribers WeChat turns to Japanese startup Quan for mobile sticker content Inside Bangkok’s growing startup scene

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Tokyo-based Quan, the Japanese startup behind mobile apps like MyStickerShop and Lounge, announced today that it has invested in Bangkok-based game startup Magic Box Asia.

Magic Box Asia was founded by Vincent Setiwan, co-founder of Bangkok’s co-working space Launchpad and the co-founder of Japanese anime creation crowdfunding site Anipipo. The company provides a smartphone game platform and app localization service for the Southeast Asian region with an emphasis on the Thai market.

Since its launch in 2011, Quan has launched smartphone app MyStickerShop in partnership with Thailand’s leading telco AIS, as well as developed the Japanese versions of popular mobile games from Thai developers such as Kiragames, PocketPlayLab, and PromptNow. The company fundraised an undisclosed sum from Japanese e-commerce giant Netprice.com and investment company East Ventures in 2012.

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WeChat turns to Japanese startup Quan for mobile sticker content

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Japanese startup Quan announced today that it has partnered with Chinese internet giant Tencent to provide stamp content within the latter’s WeChat mobile messaging app, starting today. The first set of stamps will be a Mr. Egg character set, downloadable for free from within the chat application (pictured below). Quan has built an interesting business model on top of cute, exportable Japanese content. It’s very much the same flavor of content that has led to the global success of other cute Japanese apps such as CocoPPa or Decopic. But in addition to its ‘kawaii’ appeal, Quan is riding the message app wave, with its app myStickerShop and other sticker-related business. Currently, when it comes to chat-related content, Quan has over 200 characters under its belt. Recently the company has been focused on obtaining licenses for even more, which should help solidify its reputation as the go-to company for this kind of mobile content. Readers may recall that we interviewed the company’s CEO Kazuhiro Mizuno earlier in the year about his company’s business in Thailand, including a tie-up with the nation’s largest mobile operator, AIS. They plan to establish a subsidiary in Thailand by the end of the year. As for…

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Japanese startup Quan announced today that it has partnered with Chinese internet giant Tencent to provide stamp content within the latter’s WeChat mobile messaging app, starting today. The first set of stamps will be a Mr. Egg character set, downloadable for free from within the chat application (pictured below).

Quan has built an interesting business model on top of cute, exportable Japanese content. It’s very much the same flavor of content that has led to the global success of other cute Japanese apps such as CocoPPa or Decopic. But in addition to its ‘kawaii’ appeal, Quan is riding the message app wave, with its app myStickerShop and other sticker-related business.

Currently, when it comes to chat-related content, Quan has over 200 characters under its belt. Recently the company has been focused on obtaining licenses for even more, which should help solidify its reputation as the go-to company for this kind of mobile content.

Readers may recall that we interviewed the company’s CEO Kazuhiro Mizuno earlier in the year about his company’s business in Thailand, including a tie-up with the nation’s largest mobile operator, AIS. They plan to establish a subsidiary in Thailand by the end of the year.

As for Tencent, this is not the first time that it has turned to Japanese expertise to improve its mobile offerings. The company previously enlisted Japan-based Nanameue Inc to develop its MotionPics Maker app for WeChat.

mr-egg2 mr-egg-1

Puzzle & Dragons not cute enough for you? Try Emotipon

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We previously wrote about Japanese startup Quan Inc., which in addition to producing its own Lounge chat app, has produced a cute sticker app for a major Thai telco. But yesterday the company kicked its ‘repertoire of cute’ up a notch by release a new mobile game called Emotipon. In short, the title is sort of like GungHo’s Puzzle & Dragons, only it’s far simpler, and far more cute. Like P&D this is an orb-matching game, but here you just need to trace out lines of matching orbs with your finger. It’s almost painfully easy. And by matching more orbs, you can launch a more powerful attack against your enemy. As you progress, you collect ‘helper’ characters that you can take into battle with you, each with special abilities that you can use (just like P&D). I expect Quan must be targeting younger kids with Emotipon, because I think few adults would choose something like this over P&D. But surprisingly it’s launching in English as well as Japanese, so there may be opportunity for it to pick up fans outside Japan, especially in markets around Asia where cute Japanese apps do best. If you’d like to check out Emotipon, you…

emotipon

We previously wrote about Japanese startup Quan Inc., which in addition to producing its own Lounge chat app, has produced a cute sticker app for a major Thai telco.

But yesterday the company kicked its ‘repertoire of cute’ up a notch by release a new mobile game called Emotipon. In short, the title is sort of like GungHo’s Puzzle & Dragons, only it’s far simpler, and far more cute.

Like P&D this is an orb-matching game, but here you just need to trace out lines of matching orbs with your finger. It’s almost painfully easy. And by matching more orbs, you can launch a more powerful attack against your enemy. As you progress, you collect ‘helper’ characters that you can take into battle with you, each with special abilities that you can use (just like P&D).

I expect Quan must be targeting younger kids with Emotipon, because I think few adults would choose something like this over P&D. But surprisingly it’s launching in English as well as Japanese, so there may be opportunity for it to pick up fans outside Japan, especially in markets around Asia where cute Japanese apps do best.

If you’d like to check out Emotipon, you can get it for free over on the App Store (via Gamebiz)

emotipon-1 emotipon-2

This is part of our cute Japanese apps series (RSS), examining a trend of ‘kawaii’ success stories emerging from Japan’s mobile space.

How a small Japanese startup is helping Thailand’s biggest telco win new 3G subscribers

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Thailand’s largest mobile operator, AIS, recently launched a new 3G service offering peak download speeds of up to 42Mbps in the country’s urban areas. To promote the service, the telco has been looking for new content to grab consumers’ attention. Quan, the Tokyo-based startup behind the Lounge messaging app, recently partnered with AIS, launching a new sticker app to help bring in new 3G service subscribers. I was curious to know if maybe this sticker app was a deviation from its regular business. A new direction perhaps? Is there any specific strategy behind it? In order to find out more to, we spoke with the startup’s CEO Kazuhiro Mizuno. When we last talked back in January of 2012, you were not focusing on Thailand nor were you doing any of this sticker app stuff. What happened since then? We first started marketing the app all around the Asia region, and we found it was especially popular with users in Thailand. The sticker function used to be part of the Lounge app, but we spun it off and launched it as an independent app. It’s called myStickerShop, and it has seen 500,000 downloads since first launching on Google Play. I fly…

quan_logoThailand’s largest mobile operator, AIS, recently launched a new 3G service offering peak download speeds of up to 42Mbps in the country’s urban areas. To promote the service, the telco has been looking for new content to grab consumers’ attention.

Quan, the Tokyo-based startup behind the Lounge messaging app, recently partnered with AIS, launching a new sticker app to help bring in new 3G service subscribers. I was curious to know if maybe this sticker app was a deviation from its regular business. A new direction perhaps? Is there any specific strategy behind it? In order to find out more to, we spoke with the startup’s CEO Kazuhiro Mizuno.

When we last talked back in January of 2012, you were not focusing on Thailand nor were you doing any of this sticker app stuff. What happened since then?

quan_mizuno

We first started marketing the app all around the Asia region, and we found it was especially popular with users in Thailand. The sticker function used to be part of the Lounge app, but we spun it off and launched it as an independent app. It’s called myStickerShop, and it has seen 500,000 downloads since first launching on Google Play.

I fly a lot to Thailand now, about once a month. And we’ve been discussing and exploring collaborative work [with AIS]. They knew myStickerShop has been a great success, and were interested in releasing it under the AIS brand as to attract potential subscribers to their new 3G service. So we decided to work on it with them using a revenue-share model [1].

There are many mobile carriers and MVNOs in Thailand. Why did you choose AIS? And why Thailand?

ais_mystickershopAIS is not only on top of the country’s mobile industry […] but it is also a Thai subsidiary of Singtel group. That group has many companies and subsidiaries all over Asia, which means it may help us market and expand our business in the future.

By providing our app to AIS on a white-label basis, they handle it as their own app and market it to users using their promotion channels – so we don’t need to [do so much afterwards].

As for why we’ve chosen Thailand, the country is less competitive and it’s easier to make business profitable than in places like Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Furthermore, content goes viral among Thai consumers very rapidly. In terms of consumer mentality, it’s very similar to Japan, meaning when you see your friend with some attractive or interesting items, you also want to have them. This consumer mindset can yield better viral marketing results, and that’s especially good for app developers like us.

Are you interested in expanding to other Asian countries?

Not right now. From my perspective, if you have a Japanese-style fashion app and want to market it somewhere in Asia, you can easily jump into the Taiwanese market. For Japan-made ‘Kawaii’ (cute) apps, maybe the Thai market is best right now. The market seems receptive to common Japanese trends, and local people are very friendly even for Japanese startups.

Many sticker and messaging apps are competing in this space in Asia. How do you differentiate from competitors?

Other cute Japanese apps such as Snapeee or Decopic are trending in places like Taiwan or Hong Kong. What they have been doing is bringing Japanese style to local markets, where they have not made any localization efforts in terms of exporting the apps outside Japan.

I believe what’s most important is a combination of Japan-made designs and local designs. In our case with the AIS MyStickerShop, we actually provide them with our original stickers by our Japanese designers, but they also add some local Thai designs. That might work to create favorable good results.

Most popular sticker and message apps are Japan-made. Are any developers from other Asian countries on top of this space?

This is because of highly sophisticated designing in Japan’s mature design market. Our country is well known for creating manga or anime, creating a market where cartoonists or illustrators can make a living. Perhaps many people designing our stickers are also very well trained.

In addition to the Lounge messaging app and myStickerShop, are you working on any other projects now?

unblock.me_screenshotWe’ve been bringing our app to the Thai market, and we also started helping Thai startups market their apps in the Japanese market in return. We recently partnered with Kiragames, a gaming startup in Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai. We developed the Japanese version of their smash hit puzzle game Unblock.me. We’re also helping them market it in Japan, by getting itlisted on KDDI’s Smartpass or NTT Docomo’s Sugotoku — both are monthly subscription-based app purchasing programs. This is a good way to give Japanese consumers easier access to apps from foreign developers.


I was pretty impressed that Mr. Mizuno has been so active helping other Japanese or Thai startups work collaboratively in such a way. Quan received an undisclosed amount of investment from NetPrice.com and East Ventures in August of 2012.


  1. Note that the customized AIS version of myStickerShop is only available using AIS handsets on the telco’s high-speed 3G service in Thailand.  ↩