Cartoon avatar creation software isn’t new, and to many including me it’s a hit-driven business like gaming. But today, some Chinese developers and their investors believe mobile-based cartoon avatar business can have a long-term success.
In a similar way, the two apps gained much traction in a short period of time in China and then in some overseas markets. With both being launched in 2013, MomentCam’s first version came out several months earlier than MYOTee’s. Both apps enable sharing cartoon avatars created onto mainstream social networks.
The major difference between the two, so far, is MomentCame creates a more likeness of a user, for it’s based on portrait photos imported while MYOTee only provides components of caricatures for users to choose from.
MomentCam claims it has 160 million users as of September 2014, with 90 million (about 60%) from overseas. MYOTee told me earlier this month that they had 50 million users with one fifth from overseas — It has created a separate version, named FaceQ, for overseas markets that was launched last month. Both the teams claimed they didn’t spend money acquiring users, especially in overseas markets.
MomentCam has announced multi-million RMB in seed funding from Buttonwood Capital and USD eight-digit Series A financing from Alibaba Capital Partners. MYOTee is venture backed by IDG Capital Partners and Lightspeed China Partners who have injected a total of more than RMB10 million (US$1.6mn) into it within this year.
Long-term Strategic Plans
MomentCam has begun making revenues from in-app ads and premium subscriptions. Commenting on the new funding from Alibaba, the company said they’d take advantage of Taobao, the largest consumer-to-consumer marketplace in China owned by Alibaba Group, to monetize through customized gifts created by third parties. The gifts can be either virtual or physical.
There are Taobao stores or brick-and-mortar stores selling a variety of goods, such as T-shirts, mugs, mobile phone cases, notebooks and photo frames, with users’ caricatures printed on. Some 200,000 small businesses are leveraging MomentCam caricatures to make money in this way or promote their own businesses, according to MomentCam. The company plans to grow this community so that they can financially benefit from it.
To the young team of MYOTee, selling physical goods like what the toy industry has been doing is out-of-date. The founder told me they’d only create online products and not monetize through any offline offerings.
MYOTee’s next steps will be related to social. It makes sense that there’s a person behind any caricature created on MYOTee apps. Currently the company has begun working with gaming companies, creating customized offerings for mobile games, so that they can make some revenues through advertising or possibly receive commissions.
The differences in future plans must have something to do with the founding teams. MYOTee was founded by Guo Lie, aka Erick Kuo, one of the Chinese kids born in the ’90s — referred to as “post-90s” in China, and has a team of a dozen of post-90s. MYOTee is targeting young users and believes it can create products or features to the needs of users who are young as its team. The two founders of MomentCam, much older than the MYOTee kids, went back to China from overseas in 2008 with a business plan on cartoon avatar.
Neither of the two companies started from the beginning with cartoon avatar apps. MomentCam began with hand-painted works and MYOTee with a WeChat-based voice application.
Although both MYOTee and MomentCam claimed they came up with the idea on their own, we cannot help comparing them with Bitstrips, a cartoon avatar tool that launched on Facebook less than one year earlier than the two Chinese apps. We’ll see who of them will keep it last with more or differentiated products or features, or working monetization solutions.