Between’s Co-founder: Thinking Local is Challenging, Not Yet Thinking of SEA

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VCNC, the Korean startup behind the couples messaging app, Between, has raised 3 billion KRW ($2.8 million) from Stonebridge Capital, KTB Network, Capstone Partners, and SoftBank Ventures Korea.

So far, the couples messaging app has been downloaded 2.35 million times and co-founder Edward Lee revealed that 900,000 of them are monthly active users. When asked about the user breakdown in terms of country, Korea tops the chart at 70 percent, followed by Japan (10 percent), China (8 percent), US (5 percent), and Malaysia (1 percent). Between is pretty popular in Korea – so much so that some Koreans are using it as a verb.

With Japan ranked number two, Lee says that VCNC will be incorporating a Japanese branch next month to push the app in the country. When asked about the biggest challenge for a Korean company expanding to the region, Lee told me:

I would say thinking local is the most difficult challenge. We don’t know our direct target and who likes our service and why. We know that couples are a universal thing, however, they seem to have differences. We are doing our best to provide a service that applies to many countries in a simple way that actually enhances couples’ relationships worldwide.

We also understand that out of Between’s 2.35 million downloads, very few come from Southeast Asia. Lee said that although users from Southeast Asia are increasing, there’s no immediate plans for expansion there. He elaborated:

We don’t know much about our users in that area like we do in Korea. After we do more research about the market and set a solid strategy, we’ll be ready for Southeast Asia. I also think that we’ll be able to leverage what we accomplished in Korea and Japan when the time comes.

Between has also tested ways to monetize the app. Its Event Box could potentially be either an advertising or commerce channel for brands. Besides advertising and commerce, Between today just launched its first premium feature stickers.

Meanwhile, Steve Sng, co-founder of the Singapore-based couples app LoveByte sees Between’s second round of financing as good news and less of a threat, explaining that this is evidence that the couples app market is actually viable. So far, LoveByte has a modest user base with more than 40,000 downloads, most of those originating from Singapore.

(Thanks to James Jung of BeSuccess for the heads up on this).

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