While emoticons, emojis, and stickers may seem like frivolous playthings that teenagers pepper their conversations with, they are actually a multi-million-dollar industry. Chat applications such as Line and KakaoTalk have raked in huge sums of money from stickers alone. In particular, Line makes over US$10 million a month from selling stickers.
It is therefore not surprising that an enterprising person would turn these graphics into a business in itself, or ‘stickers-as-a-service’, as coined by Geraldine Yong, the founder of PicoCandy. Her startup was initially based in the US, but is now moving to Southeast Asia. She plans to completely change the way we communicate using – you guessed it – stickers.
“I’ve always liked expressing myself in emoticons and emojis with my friends to convey a message,” she explained. “So I had this idea in 2011: why can’t communication be more expressive? Not long after, Line came out with stickers, and I had the idea to provide stickers in one platform, almost like emojis where people can purchase, download, and use them to express themselves.”
She further elaborated that PicoCandy’s focus is to empower smaller developers and companies to monetize from the sale of stickers on their respective platforms.
As PicoCandy is currently in stealth mode, the energetic founder declined to reveal details of their funding, only that they had a raised a good seed round of around $1 million.
The idea to make communication more expressive
Online communication is increasingly becoming more the norm than the exception in the workplace today. A study done by The Radicati Group showed the majority of emails – 100.6 billion of them – sent and received worldwide in 2013 came from business email accounts. This number is expected to increase to 132 billion by the end of 2017. At the same time, enterprise social networks are sprouting up in droves all over the world.
Because of this, online communication in the workplace, while enabling workers to instantly and efficiently correspond with their counterparts, is a potential minefield of misunderstandings and unhappiness. A reason for this is the lack of nonverbal cues, which make up 65 to 93 percent more impact than the words conveyed, according to Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.
Some experts have since started to extol the importance of using emoticons in conveying tone and emotional content. Geraldine has gone a step further with stickers.
Geraldine first thought of this idea back in 2011, even before Line rolled out their own line (pun intended) of sticker messages. Since then, it seems that almost every other messaging app has turned to opening a sticker shop to monetize, and for good reason – it is a proven method of generating revenue.
Helping smaller developers and companies with one service The term ‘stickers-as-a-service’ aptly sums up what they have to offer. On one hand, PicoCandy helps startups engage their users by providing ready-made sticker stores, or by powering existing sticker stores with content. On the other, they provide a marketplace for content creators to sell their stickers. PicoCandy takes a cut of the revenue earned, which varies depending on the partners involved.
For companies that do not have the infrastructure in place already, PicoCandy provides a complete content management system. With the provided SDK, developers can build a full sticker store right into their app with only a couple lines of code. This is a huge boon to small companies that want to engage their users, but do not have the manpower required to do so.
“Not every company is as big as Naver, which can afford to have a lot of people working on things like stickers. Most companies have to concentrate on core app functionalities. So we want to take this one pain point away by continuously providing them with content and a way for them to manage it,” Geraldine explained.
The team is also looking to roll out onboard analytics soon, which will likely help set them apart from any competitors, especially given that their CTO, Khang Toh, has a wealth of experience in building content management systems.
As for their content marketplace, PicoCandy is currently partnered with both brand licenses and designers who actively use their platform to distribute their stickers. These initial partners account for the tens of thousands of iconic and localized characters that have been turned into stickers, which are available for companies and apps to choose and sell.
Their edge: Localised content
While PicoCandy was first conceived in the US, Geraldine revealed that she is focusing on expanding into the Southeast Asian market. This is probably a wise choice, seeing as stickers have been widely popular in the region.
Specifically, she explained they are looking to provide localised content for every country that they are distributing to. This could well be PicoCandy’s advantage compared to other social networking services that might be bigger but do not have stickers that reflect local styles and themes.
“We have three types of content: branded ones, which is licensed content that include famous characters from the entertainment industry; designer content that include not-so-famous brands; and localised content,” she said. “For every market that we are distributing to, from Europe to Asia, we have localised content ready for our partners to just take and go with it.”
Line’s recent success with culture-specific stickers in Spain proves this approach might just work. As Akira Morikawa, Line’s CEO, puts it, “A bow may work in Japan, but not in other countries.”
For Geraldine, this is the fun part about being in the business of stickers. “It’s really interesting to work with characters that you grew up with,” she enthused. In particular, she mentioned that they are looking to include local celebrities from each country in sticker form.
In line with this strategy, PicoCandy is currently looking to expand their team in Southeast Asia, with a focus on hiring business development experts in each country who are familiar with the local cultures. Editing by Paul Bischoff, Terence Lee and Steven Millward