Korean startup VCNC has received a strategic investment from Japanese Internet giant DeNA to turn its couples app Between into an open platform for third-party developers. The amount of the deal was not disclosed. DeNA (pronounced D-N-A) is one of Japan’s top mobile Internet companies. Its core business is Mobage, a social games platform, but it also offers e-commerce and other online services.
VCNC, which launched in November 2011, has raised a total of $4 million in funding so far from investors including Softbank Ventures.
Between, which has been downloaded 5 million times so far, is among a host of apps for besotted lovebirds who aren’t content with just exchanging texts or emails. Other couples apps include the aptly named Couple, Avocado, Twosome, SimplyUs, Duet, and TheIceBreak.
VCNC co-founder Edward Lee said in an email that Between’s competitive strategy has focused on enhancing its core features, chatting and photo-sharing, as well as adding special features for each market it enters.
“We have been basically focusing on providing couples with a stable service that will help their relationship. To do this, we have gone through many updates that our users may or may not notice,” said Lee. “However, our metrics show that our users now stay on our service for 510 minutes per month compared to 300 minutes per month last year.”
VCNC and DeNA’s strategic partnership will open Between to third-party developers. For users, this means that they will see more features on the app “that can help couples plan activities together, communicate and keep their memories better,” explained Lee.
Third-party services will be localized for specific markets as Between expands to Southeast Asia, the U.S. and Taiwan. In South Korea and Japan, VCNC has already started working with different businesses, including restaurants, wedding service vendors, movie theaters, and sports teams to add content to Between’s “Event Box” feature. In Japan, the app also increased engagement by selling stickers specifically made for that market.
Between currently monetizes through advertising and in-app purchases like animated stickers, but plans to add e-commerce as an additional revenue stream. For example, couples will be able to purchase gifts for each other, like flower deliveries, through the app, said Lee.
In a statement, DeNA president and CEO Isao Moriyasu said “purpose-specific social networks like Between are rapidly gaining popularity worldwide, following the massive adoption of general social networks and communication tools. DeNA sees a great global potential in this highly sophisticated mobile Internet service.”