[Korean Startup Interview] Azar, Say Hi With a Swipe
With just a swipe, Hyperconnect can help you meet a French lady before you visit Paris, or a university student in the U.S. studying English. With this killer feature, it took less than a year the app to achieve 13 million downloads and US$2.3 million in turnover. Launched in March 2014, the company’s flagship app Azar has been of interest mainly in emerging markets like Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. AppAnnie, the app analytics team, shows that Azar’s users are most commonly from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Eygpt, and Israel.
Altos Ventures, the renowned VC in Silicon Valley and Korea, invested US$2 million in Azar upon seeing its potential. CEO Sang-il Ahn said that the investment is solely for penetrating new markets, since wages and operations can be covered by their increasing sales. He added that about 85% of revenues come from sales of their advanced features, which lets you select specific country and gender.
What Azar does might seem so simple, but the technology behind the app is key when satisfying over 13 million users worldwide. When Azar was first launched, Ahn said the power of GooglePlay helped it spread out so quickly. There are three key points how Azar differentiates itself from other competitors.
First, Hyperconnect is an expert on WebRTC (Real Time Communication). WebRTC is a free open project that provides browsers and mobile applications with RTC capabilities via simple APIs. When Google opened WebRTC in 2011, Hyperconnect’s current CTO, then an employee at Korea Financial Telecommunications & Clearings Institute, was interested and started digging into it. He mastered the technology and developed his own version of it, HyperRTC which can be applied to smartphones as well as the web.
Second, the company has accumulated data on connections, networks and devices from many different countries. As the company has gained so many users in a short amount of time, they have learned from experience how different telecom networks and devices affect the service. The accumulated information from oversea countries has helped the company grow even more.
Third, the company can keep its server costs low, regardless of numbers accessing the service globally. Normally a large number of users means high server costs, leading to financial burdens. However, the company pays only US$500 per month for its servers, thanks to their technology.
Last year, HyperConnect’s software developer job opening was eye catching, since it offered a US$200K wage, more than double the average for Korean software developers and equal to those in Silicon Valley. However, due to the high requirements of the post, none of 70 applicants were hired. The job was later occupied by a professional, Ahn said.
Why should we hyper-connect?
“Our vision is simple: World peace. I believe that conflicts are rooted from lack of communication. As you communicate through Azar, you might be able to meet a patient with Ebola. With the low cost, high quality video communication we provide, we want to hyper-connect the world,” Ahn explained.
The service name ‘Azar’ actually comes from Sang’s favorite soccer player, Eden Michael Hazard. However, later he found out that Azar is also a common given name in Arabic countries, which means it unintentionally attracted many users from the Middle East.
Azar is currently available in GooglePlay and on the web. Ahn said the company is developing an iOS version, to meet a Chinese audience. Ahn also said the company will create a messenger feature, since their users have been asking the company to add it.