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Investment  12, May 2014

Couple app Between launches m-commerce; adds 2 new investors

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With more than 7.3 million users, VCNC, the firm behind Between, announces receiving an undisclosed sum from 500 Startups and Global Brain

South Korean startup VCNC (Value Creators & Company), the firm behind couple app Between, has today announced receiving more love and funds from additional investors, Global Brain and 500 Startups. The amount has not been disclosed.

This comes shortly after the company was reported to have gotten “strategic investment from DeNA”, a Japan-based mobile and e-commerce giant. The partnership must have been fruitful, given that VCNC also took the opportunity to launch its m-commerce store, starting with its biggest market and home country, South Korea.

M-commerce store launched

edward_between

Edward Lee, Head of International Business, VCNC

“Considering the infrastructure and our current user base in South Korea, it serves a good test bed for our new commerce model,” said Edward Lee, Head of International Business, VCNC, in conversation with e27.

At the moment, the app has a worldwide user base of 7.3 million accounts, of which 60 percent — 4,380,000 users – can be attributed to South Korea. Its second biggest market is neighbouring country, Japan, which accounts for one million users (the press release had originally referred to the users in Japan as ‘downloads’ but upon further checks, the company had meant ‘users’ instead).

With 31 staffers based all across the globe, Lee said that three members in their Korean office have been planning, developing and designing the m-commerce store for about a year now. “Commerce is totally new for us,” he added, “so the number of people allocated will likely to change according to future operations.” (Sic)

Users in South Korea can pay through three methods: credit card, carrier billing, or bank transfer. Lee added, “When we develop our commerce into a more solid model, it wouldn’t be a big problem mounting it into new markets where we have a meaningful number of users, right partners and a commerce-friendly environment.”

Also Read: Singapore-based couple app LoveByte introduces new Sticker Shop

Since Japan follows right after South Korea, in terms of user numbers, will it be next on VCNC’s market expansion plan for its m-commerce store? According to him, the move will only be made after the team gathers more knowledge on how their users respond to the new feature, and whether it can find the right partners for the region.

Jaeuk Park, Co-Founder and CEO, VCNC, said, “An e-commerce play is a natural progression for Between in terms of VCNC’s monetisation strategy. Since our early days of partnering brands through our Event Box (advertising), we have seen this demand and believe that this can also be successfully executed in our other markets such as Japan, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.” In addition, the company also generates revenue through sticker sales.

Within the m-commerce store, users can browse for physical goods under ‘Gift Shop’ and discount coupons under ‘Mobile Coupon Shop’. Categories include accessories, jewellery, and electronics.

Investment from Global Brain, 500 Startups

Founded in 2011, VCNC has raised more than US$4 million in two earlier funding rounds: US$1 million from SoftBank Ventures Korea and US$3 million from Stonebridge Capital, KTB Network, Capstone Partners, and Software Ventures Korea.

The company has also secured investment from Japanese mobile and e-commerce player DeNA in February 2014. The sum, however, has not been disclosed. The additional two investors, Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain Corporation and US-based 500 Startups, have joined via VCNC’s latest round, led by DeNA.

According to an official statement, Global Brain’s investment in VCNC was made through its GB-V Growth Fund Investment Limited Partnership. The scheme was announced at the 7th Global Brain Alliance Forum held last December, and has Innovation Network Corporation of Japan as a leading partner.

Social networking services have become increasingly popular, and that there are quite a number of security issues to tackle because of a growing online population. Yasuhiko Yurimoto, President and CEO, Global Brain Corporation, said, “Closed or private social network services like Between enable people to share information with selected users. Within this domain, Between is in the top global position and has high potential of becoming the standard. Global Brain Corporation could support VCNC’s growth not only in Japan but also in all of Asia.”

Also Read: Myanmar’s social network SQUAR takes on publishing games and apps

That would be good news to VCNC’s ears, since it has seen strong growth in Southeast Asia and Taiwan – both in terms of user numbers and partnership deals. The company has recently hired two staff members to manage operations in Taiwan. In Southeast Asia, the app has grown from 220,000 users to 360,000 users in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, within the last six months.

Christine Tsai, Managing Partner, 500 Startups, also gave her comments on the investment. She said, “To date, they are our second investment in South Korea. I first met them a couple of years ago, and since then have been continually impressed with their performance.”

For the record, 500 Startups’ first investment in South Korea was in Shakr Media, all the way in 2012.

Elaine Huang

Elaine Huang

Elaine is a fervent believer that if there ever is a zombie apocalypse, we will all be snapping away at them with our phones and posting them onto Instagram. A Mass Communication graduate of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film and Media Studies, she enjoys writing about technology and entrepreneurs. When not hashtagging her way through all sorts of trouble, Elaine is probably contemplating how to write in the third person.

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