Santa Clara-based startup Tapastic has raised a new $2 million funding round, in a Series A sourced from South Korea’s Daum Communications, Inc. The startup offers a portal for webcomics, and what founder and CEO Chang Kim sees as online visual storytelling in general. There are a surprising number of startups chasing digital comics as an opportunity, but Tapastic is unique in its approach and its treatment of the medium.
Daum Communications is a key strategic partner for Tapastic: It operates the largest webcomic (or webtoon) portal ins South Korea, which is a huge business in that market. The company has a market value of over $1 billion, and its titles have been turned into Korean TV dramas and movies multiple times over. Kim is hoping that with Daum’s help, Tapastic can start to expand the appeal and reach of the webcomics medium in the U.S., as well as bring over some successful Korean titles to see if they can find success in the English-speaking market.
But there’s a larger goal for Kim, who previously ran Blogger at Google, and that’s to popularize visual storytelling as a medium and get people to realize that comics aren’t just a narrow audience tool with limited appeal.
“Webcomics is not just about comics in the traditional sense,” he explained in an interview. “It’s just about telling amazing stories. More than 20 webcomic series on Daum has been made into blockbuster movies on Daum, and as consumers, everyone likes to read visual stories; they’re much more interesting than, like, 200 page novels.”
It’s true that the Internet is an overwhelmingly visual medium, and Kim notes that websites like The Oatmeal which have used comics as a way of conveying a message have done tremendously well on the web. The goal for Tapastic is to continue to democratize the medium, and make it so that people who don’t think of themselves as comics fans find themselves engaging with content regularly.
“When we say we’re about building a webcomics platform, people think of that as a comics company,” he said. “But we definitely want to build a service that can cater to the mainstream audience. What we think is webcomics can be something much more generic and mainstream, as in just great stories told visually.”
Currently, creators on the platform are supported via sharing of ad revenue, with comics makers typically getting 70 percent and Tapastic taking 30. Going forward, Kim says they’re interested in exploring freemium models wherein you get a few issues free and then have to pay the rest. Varied revenue options could help encourage more creators to come on board, but the key, as Kim notes, will be growing audience, and that’s going to depend on whether Taptastic can find its ‘Oatmeal moment’ – or, in a perfect world, a number of them.