Tokyo-based Taskey, the Japanese startup behind chat fiction app Peep, announced last week that it has secured a series D round from Chinese tech giant Tencent. For the startup, this follows their previous funding rounds in June of 2015, July of 2018, and May of 2019. The funding amount of the latest round has not been disclosed but it is estimated seven-digit or more figures in US dollars based on the size of previous rounds.
The company was founded in 2014 by Hiromu Oishi who is also known as novelist Romy Oishi for his works “Love is a Loaded Pistol” and “Escalator Boy”. In December of 2017, his startup launched the Peep app, which allows subscribers to read stories in the category of chat fiction, a format of web fiction written solely in the form of text-message or instant messaging conversations. A flock of excellent works created by novelists and editors have contributed to achieving the 3 million downloads milestone to date.
Compared to comics and video clips, text may seem unremarkable but it can be a base for derivative works in other formats, which is very advantageous for creating more potential for films or TV drama series. Despite only 2,000 titles available on the app at the moment, “let’s read” video clips featuring these titles have been viewed more than 45 million times to date. It has also succeeded in winning the hearts of the Gen Z by creating clips starring notable influencers.
The company plans to use the funds to add a new viewing experience called Illustrated Novels (literally translated) to the app. In addition, they will launch a global version app in August where users can read English translation of the works from the Peep app. By teaming up with Tencent, the Chinese tech giant renowned for its strength in promoting and developing various types of games, Taskey expects to turn their smash-hit fictions into games and expand them globally.
Webtoons have been driving force behind the creation of movies and TV drama series in Korea. Our readers may recall that Korean webtoon studio Tapas Media was acquired by portal giant Kakao for US$510 million last year, and more recently, Korean short-form drama startup WhyNot Media secured funding from Japanese telco KDDI to expand into the Japanese market.
Kakao Japan, the Japanese subsidiary of Korean platform giant known for running the Piccoma digital comics platform, secured $526.5 million in funding, which brought their market cap to $7.7 billion and is expected to soon join the so-called Decacorn Club. Rocket Staff, the Japanese startup joining the umbrella of Japanese anime conglomerate Animate back in January, is aiming to develop its webtoon business in Japan while Korean portal giant Naver has announced that it will integrate Wattpad, a Canadian novel creation social networking service acquired earlier this year, with its webtoon business to begin full-scale global expansion.
In this way, a number of platforms have been emerged to distribute content born out of the community. Although Japanese manga is highly regarded worldwide, it takes a long time to create a smash-hit due to the shortage of manga artists and their candidates.
Taking their advantage of the lower cost for finding artists and the ability to output interesting stories, Taskey will focus on developing more fictions and other intellectual properties that can be transformed into a variety of entertainment formats.