Some may remember Seconds as one of the startups which exhibited at last year’s Echelon, specifically during the Taiwan Satellite event. Now, the company behind it, Spicy Cinnamon (or Cinnamon for short), has announced that it has raised JPY 150 million (approximately US$1.47 million) from a group of investors, which include CyberAgent Ventures and Golden Gate Ventures. Concurrently, the company has launched a new iOS photo sharing app PicChat, and an Android version is slated to follow soon.

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With over 200,000 downloads across the Asia-Pacific region, Seconds has provided Cinnamon with valuable feedback and data with which to develop PicChat. According to Co-founder and CEO Miku Hirano, the behaviour of Seconds users has been a major factor behind the development of PicChat.

We’ve been looking at our Seconds users for almost an year, since our launch, and we’ve found that they are using our app not for saving memories in photos, but rather for real-time communication,” she said, adding, “For them, they can’t be bothered to key in text when uploading a photo, so our new app allows to add a short audio clip with the app. That’s PicChat.”

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Indeed, it can be said that Cinnamon has been treating Seconds as a test bed for its marketing process for PicChat. As an example, students were roped in to increase PicChat’s virality. “To help in user acquisition, we hired a number of students from top Asian universities as interns,” Hirano noted. “We believe in their potential in terms of their viral marketing skills,” she further said.

Likewise, many investors believe in the potential of PicChat as well. “We love what the company stands for, the team, their vision and product sensibility,” said Co-founder of Golden Gate Ventures Jeffrey Paine. Particularly, we have known the team since 2010 at Echelon Ignite in Thailand and have followed up with them ever since. They have great product sense, execution and growth hacking abilities. With regards to PicChat, they have a unique product hook that is unseen as of yet in the market,” added Paine.

That said,  the Cinnamon team acknowledges that competition is fierce in the Asian photo sharing and messaging app market. “In this space, I think Vietnam and Korea are saturated by Korean apps like Kakao Talk. So we expect to take over Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand with the PicChat,” said Hirano.

Japan? Isn’t it where LINE is an established leader in the messaging app space by revenue? While the market is definitely crowded, Paine believes that PicChat will be able to carve out its own niche. “There will be a market for niche or specific use case communications,” he said.

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Moving forward, Cinnamon will concentrate on PicChat, shutting down Seconds and reallocating its resources to further PicChat’s development. For this year, the focus will be on user acquisition, with monetisation to start after 2015  through selling stickers and ads.