Last week, Japanese technology company FASTMEDIA, announced raising US$2.7 million from several big venture firms and individuals such as Globis Capital Partners, Salesforce, YJ Capital, and Shogo Kawada, Co-founder, DeNA, according to local online publication The Bridge.
FASTMEDIA is also the startup behind mobile app development Software-as-a-Service Yappli, which lets people create iOS and Android apps without needing to input code.
These sort of services are rather popular in today’s mobile-first, mobile-only world, as it allows anyone with an idea to build and launch mobile apps. With wearable devices becoming mainstream, mobile apps also need to step up their game with features that allow for behavioural tracking. For those who do not know how to create mobile apps for the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store, a service like Yappli can be useful.
We spoke to Yasubumi Ihara, Co-founder, FASTMEDIA, to understand what the two-year-old company is up to, how Yappli differentiates itself from the multitude of competitors out there in the market, and what keeps him going when times are tough.
Here are the edited excerpts…
Can you tell me more about the company?
Our company, FASTMEDIA, is behind mobile app development SaaS Yappli, which allows you to create an app without a single line of code. Value proportions of Yappli are:
- Fast development. Customers can create ‘native’ mobile app without a single line of code. Very easy and it is cross-platform for iOS/Android.
- High quality. When you hear “easy to create”, you may think the quality is bad. But we focus on quality with native app UI/UX. That’s why we have many enterprise customers such as Coleman, Burton, New Era and many others.
- Easy to manage. Only ‘drag-and-drop’ is required to update app. Anyone can update an app in real-time, anytime, anywhere.
When and how did you come up with the idea?
My Co-founder Masafumi Sano and I were having fun developing iOS apps, then we got first place in the iOS App Store for creating a snowboarding how-to movie app. It was just a hobby, but we thought we could try and do much bigger things.
We brainstormed every week, even through Japan’s March 11 earthquake (every market collapsed!), we didn’t give up. The idea came from when some of my friends asked me if I could create an app for them (those were fashion catalogue apps). We thought that there should be a content management system (CMS) to create those apps without coding — both iOS and Android — at once. It was April 2011 when we started developing and it took us two years to launch a Beta version.
How big is the company now?
For last two years since launch, it used to be only three co-founders. We just started hiring; now we have six employees including the three co-founders.
Has the company received external funding, and if so, how much and from whom?
In April 2013, when we founded the company, we received JPY 30 million (about US$251,072) from YJ capital which is Yahoo! Japan’s corporate venture capital arm.
Earlier this month, we received JPY 330 million (about US$2.7 million) from Globis Capital Partners, Salesforce, YJ Capital, and Shogo Kawada, who is the Co-founder of DeNA.
What are a few challenges faced by the company?
We have to educate customers and get the market to mature. It’s still early for most companies to have a mobile app.
So, we need to address how effective the mobile app is for their business. But demand is getting stronger these days, so we have confidence to expand.
How does Yapp.li differentiate itself from competitors?
Overall quality of app and CMS. Our app is a native app, not a hybrid app, so user experience is much better. We focus on UI/UX and that’s why many top fashion brands are using Yappli.
Also, we have many strong features such as the ability to sync with Apple Watch, iBeacon, Geofence, and provide in-app purchase (both subscription and item purchase).
Our CMS is easy to use, so you don’t have to take time to learn.
What keeps you going when things are rough?
Co-founders and co-workers. We are a small team and it’s tight.
We are doing something we love. We love cutting-edge technologies around mobile native apps and the iOS ecosystem. The future is exciting.
Personally though, it’s my daughter, who was born just a year ago.
The mobile app market is growing. It’s not just the game or social networking services, but business apps as well. So, whenever things are tough, we can have fun as the market growth pushes us. Also, the technology around apps is far advanced, compared to websites, so it is always exciting in terms of technology or marketing.
What are your plans for the next six months?
We would like to expand our business internationally. Unfortunately, we only support the Japanese language at the moment, but we will do so [expand] in 2016.
In terms of our CRM, we will provide more accurate and personalised push notifications. Also, we will take advantage of offline behaviour data using iBeacon, which is something only apps can do, since websites cannot collect offline data.