[Startup Nations Summit 2014] Interview with Aihua Huang, Sungy Mobile CTO
Aihua Huang, CTO of Sungy Mobile, shared the company’s experience in running mobile apps worldwide when at the Startup Nations Summit 2014 held in Seoul. He noted that Sungy Mobile now has a global user base of 401 million, and 100 million monthly active users. (link) Interestingly enough, their second biggest overseas market is South Korea. Aihua shared with Technode Sungy Mobile’s road map towards overseas expansion and his advice for tech companies going global.
Go Launcher is widespread in Korea, but most people don’t know that it was from China.
That’s the beauty of the mobile internet industry. It was born to be global in nature. Users have the same needs worldwide. Because we focus on the user experience, which is the essential aspect for everyone, we were not afraid to release Go Launcher on the overseas markets.
It was not our initial intention to focus on the Korean market. There were two main circumstances which helped Go Launcher gain interest in Korea. We first released the English version in the U.S. market and made higher penetration of the Android market a short term goal. Since 90% of smartphone owners there have used Android, Korean users, and especially women, picked up Go Launcher from the Android market very quickly. The second reason was our focus on personalization. Korean people like to beautify their phone and Go Launcher matched their needs.
With iHQ, Korean entertainment company, Sungy Mobile established a joint venture, GoLauncher Korea. What’s the idea behind it?
Since we had a large user base in Korea, we wanted to build a strong product. We had two major competitors in Korea, which were Naver, Korea’s main search portal and Kakao, a multi-platform texting app. Compared to them, we were lacking in marketing capabilities. We needed to find a local partner in Korea to help us with that. That’s how we connected to iHQ. They are an entertainment company and their work and background satisfied us. We believed that if we work together, we can make a better product in Korea to serve users better.
Sungy Mobile this year established a subsidiary for gaming and acquired three online game companies. It seems that you are also getting into the gaming market.
Gaming is one of the best monetization approaches for Chinese startups and the kind of application that users most enjoy. When you think of gaming, you might think about how we monetize the game, starting from a lot of traffic and the user base. Of course, by nature games are planned to be distributed and published. But for us, we chose not to develop and put a lot of resources and R&D into it. We wanted to work with third parties to distribute games, improve user engagement and share revenue with our partners. A Chinese gaming company’s revenue does not mainly come from ads, but from working as a platform to gather startups in it. In short, our business model is aimed at game developers rather than users.
Since Sungy Mobile released Go Launcher in China, Korea and U.S., could you describe the cultural differences such as users’ behavior patterns ?
First, overseas product distribution is different from China. While Korean and U.S. users have access to the GooglePlay, Chinese users does not. Around 98% of our traffic comes fromGooglePlay, where, if the product is good and editors like it, applications have a good chance of being featured. In China, there are third party Android app stores and users deal with them. Second, users show different product preferences. Western users, mainly U.S. users prefer dark, high-tech designs while Korean users prefer cute appearances.
There are a lot of Korean startups that wants to penetrate the Chinese mobile market. What would you advise them?
You need to know the Chinese market and the users. If your service is a global interest such as Go Launcher, it would be easier. I should note that even so, you have to understand the differences in different markets. Then, if you want to distribute your product, you should think about which app store you can work with. I suggest you find a local partner.
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)
Eva Yoo / Eva Yoo is Seoul, South Korea-based tech writer.