Anyone can make emoticons
-The emoticon platform “stiPop” president Ki-ram Park (School of Mechanical Engineering ’12)
As social media develops, the market for emoticons, which function as a form of digital language, is rapidly expanding. In the case of KakaoTalk, the number of paid emoticon buyers has reached 27 million, and emoticon sales on LINE totaled 300 billion won last year. stiPop President Ki-ram Park has entered this growing market by creating an emoticon platform with low barriers to entry.
Though there are many illustrators who want to publish their work as emoticons, the platforms on which they can promote their work are very limited. In the case of KakaoTalk, illustrators may only submit 50 new emoticons a month, and it is difficult for new artists to enter the system. Compared to Korea, where the market is already saturated, the needs of international messenger users are just now beginning to increase rapidly. This is why stiPop has targeted international messengers such as Facebook, iMessage, and Snapchat.
“On Facebook or Snapchat, it’s impossible for users to publish their own emoticons. The companies recruit illustrators by contacting them directly. That’s why Facebook only has about 250 emoticons. iMessage did start allowing users to publish emoticons in September of last year, but you have to pay a 100,000 won yearly fee. Your emoticons have to be judged and verified, too. Another shortcoming is that you can only use them on one messenger. Plus, sometimes emoticons will work on iPhones but not on Android phones, and that’s really inconvenient too. Since we’re an emoticon platform service company, you can freely publish and share your emoticons on a variety of messengers, including these three.”
On stiPop, anyone can publish emoticons. Each emoticon contains the illustrator’s name, and artists can link their blogs to promote their other works. Even users who are not illustrators can publish emoticons. “Since it’s vital for us to collect lots of emoticons, we’re working hard to advertise our platform. Our advertising is aimed primarily at fine arts students in their early- to mid-20s studying at art colleges in New York. Because it’s easy to publish emoticons and it’s a good way for artists to promote themselves, I think it will also set a good example for the company and the illustrators to coexist.”
A market with huge potential – iMessage and Facebook users alone reach 1.9 billion
stiPop creator Ki-ram Park spent his childhood in England. Even after returning to Korea, he kept in touch with his overseas friends and began to realize that these friends used far less emoticons than his Korean friends. It became clear that compared to Korean messengers such as KakaoTalk and LINE, there are not enough emoticons available to those not using Korean messengers.
When he decided to start a business with this idea, he joined the start-up club in the first semester of last year and learned the basics of starting a business. That summer, the idea took shape, and this January, stiPop began operating in earnest from the KU Start-up Center. As a mechanical engineering major, he had trouble finding team members at first since people around him weren’t interested in starting a business or developing such a platform.
Since it is geared towards international messengers, stiPop’s services are provided in English, and its members are “global.” The team includes a German designer and a member who lived in Japan for eight years. The team plans to soon offer stiPop’s services in Japanese as well.
“LINE makes a lot of money selling emoticons and has 200 million users, but by using our platform, it’s possible to enter an even bigger market. Facebook has 1.1 billion users, and iMessage has 800 million, so it’s almost impossible to compare that market to ours in terms of scale. Our service has the capacity to become a channel for illustrators to enter a bigger market overseas.”
stiPop has already collected 23,000 emoticons in the 7 months since it offered its services. The goal is to have as many people as possible publish and use emoticons, and plans to provide tools for users who are not illustrators to make their own emoticons are in the works. In this market with high potential, one can only imagine the kinds of progress stiPop will make.
Making a world without Hogaeng (foolish customers) with smart expenditure curation
- President Eul Noh of The Wealthy Unemployed (School of Business ’13)
Making money may be important, but so is spending it wisely. This is why President Eul Noh of The Wealthy Unemployed created an expenditure curation system. The app that he developed, TOAD, aims to aid in developing smarter consumer habits by “preventing the squandering of money and collecting perks and discounts.” It is the most effective way to, in Ms. Noh’s own words, “not become a hogaeng.” Hogaeng is a neologism that combines hogu (foolish) and gogaeg (customer) and refers to consumers who are somewhat naïve and easy to deceive.
“TOAD is a kind of expenditure curation service that finds and prevents the wasting of money. Generally, wasting money means the money and discounts lost by careless spending. The reason why people can’t use readily available discounts is simple. In the brief moment when you are about to pay for something, it’s difficult and annoying to try to calculate and decide between discounts. Nowadays, most people have multiple credit cards, and since each card offers different perks and discounts, you can enjoy all of your cards’ perks if you just look for the optimal way to pay.”
The name TOAD comes from the fairy tale “Kongjwi and Patjwi,” namely the toad that helps Kongjwi by patching up a leaking pot. Like the toad in the fairy tale, it means that it will help stop money from leaking. TOAD provides combined discounts that could be missed because the user didn’t know about them or because they were too cumbersome to comb through. Furthermore, it analyzes the user’s spending patterns to recommend methods for smarter spending. The app’s target demographic is unmarried women in their 30s.
“I surveyed around 150 people before creating TOAD. Women in their 30s were the most responsive to the survey. In the case of these women, they are not mere amateurs in society at this age and are also getting interested in making a sizable sum of money. We were right about them being very skilled at collecting new information and using it wisely. According to our survey, if you spend 30 million won a year, the money that is wasted usually amounts to about a million won.” Using TOAD is simple. After downloading the app and signing in just once with your digital signature certificate, your credit card information will be registered automatically. TOAD uses this information to provide a payment combination recommendation. You can receive information about the cards, loyalty points programs, etc. that offer the best discounts immediately when making a purchase.
Service will officially start at the end of the year or early next year
While studying business administration in college, Ms. Noh took integrated courses related to entrepreneurship and worked towards her dream of starting a business. She had already had experience in commercializing ideas through previous work on a project with a financial consulting company. Though it was a different kind of project than TOAD, she was still able to learn all of the basic necessary elements for starting a business.
She sought out people who had already realized the importance of designers and developers early on and personally met and convinced them to join her team, which currently consists of five members. The designer, who she was having the most trouble finding, was recruited when she coincidentally bumped into an old friend from middle school, Ja-hyun Seol, on the bus. They were delighted to see each other again and talked about this and that, and eventually Ms. Seol revealed that she had graduated from Hongik University’s visual design department. Ms. Noh suggested that they work together, and she readily accepted.
Currently, TOAD is in the testing phase where it is recruiting users to try it before its official release. Official service will begin at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. “We will collect our profits from credit card companies and smartpay companies,” Ms. Noh said. “We can provide users’ spending pattern statistics to small- and medium-sized independent business owners or become a publicity channel for them.”
“Once TOAD is released and establishes itself as a spending creation, it will evolve into a purchase creation that suggests consumer actions based on an individual’s needs. The ultimate goal of the service is to create a robo-advisor that provides personalized information for each user.”