KawaiiApp is a Selfie Karaoke and Japanese Style Photobooth App dedicated to Japanese Youth Culture. The company behind it is kawaii.com that allows runs the @kawaii.com FreeMail Service and the fashion label: iamkawaii, with offices in Berlin and Tokyo. KawaiiApp is reaching out for the growing worldwide fan community of Japanese Youth Culture.
Norman Wankowski, the CEO and founder of kawaii.com, gives us some great insights into a very niche market.
FundingSpree: How did you come up with the idea for your startup?
Norman Wankowski: I am a big fan of Japanese Youth Culture in general. “Kawaii” – means cute in Japanese and stands for a whole exciting urban pop culture lifestyle.
A couple of years ago I was lucky to be able to buy my favorite domain “kawaii.com“, a solid foundation for a Kawaii related App and a great gateway to reach many fans of Japanese youth culture. Our product is a girls app called “KawaiiApp” (iOS). Our key feature is Selfie Karaoke on iOS and classic Photo booth editing tools, but we are also further developing the website www.kawaii.com and offer other brands to promote their apps and products here.
I am coming from the advertising and TV commercial industry and I am 24/7 involved in Media production for a young audience since 14 years. I just love flashy fun apps. I also lived in Japan and I like the idea to share my passion for Japan with the world. It was clear to me that face-tracking and motion sticker technology will be a new trend with special success in Japan and Asia, and this is great because this is also what we are working on. Snapchat was the proof of concept for that when they integrated filters that detect facial expression and trigger animations. Another example would be MSQRD that was bought by facebook.
FS: What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome so far?
NW: We are building the company without any investors money so far. This is rare and tough but reflects our idea of a healthy and independent company with effective management structure at this stage of the project. In my company the software creators are the stars, the people who market the app. We have no obligation to grow too fast and this is good for us right now. We can adapt to the market and extend our testing. Being a developer is a hard business, we also suffered a lot from the Parse shut down by facebook at the beginning of the year. But now we are very happy with AWS by Amazon-but yes this was a real challenge.
FS: Tell us about one anecdote which made your transition to working for a startup worth it
NW: I think working in a startup is a great thing for all people who love to work in different categories rather than only performing one task again and again. Everyday you have to fix a lot of unexpected issues, that keeps your adrenalin up. Working in a small team of excellent talents is just the most amazing thing. But I lived almost all my life as freelancer, so thats why this is kind of normal for me. I would say my whole life is the state of a start-up.
FS: Is there any growth hack you use to improve/scale your business or to make some of your workflows more efficient?
NW: We are just launching a new GIF Maker feature. People will be able to upload their face pictures and the App is tracking them into animated GIFs. We are sure that people will share those a lot and we are expecting a viral effect. We use very conservative watermarks to achieve our goals at the moment. If people don’t recommend your products to their friends, it’s not good enough, as simple as that. So our strategy is just to do everything to make our product better, not much more. We have to use our resources very smart otherwise we wouldn’t be able to continue. We are doing a lot of testing in various places to get the user input unfiltered.
FS: Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about starting their own company?
NW: That’s a difficult question. I can only share my current point of view. I would say you need to ensure you have a couple of things first:
Money. Make sure you have a proper solid income from somewhere or savings. A good team. In a perfect world people who are hybrids. I mean coder who also have graphic design skills etc. and most important: only focus on building a product. Make a prototype and improve it and adapt it to the market. Expect a long time of spending money before you see revenue. Your final product will be eventually very different from your original idea. That is normal. Finally: Don’t spend too much time with business plans and fund raising. If it is not happening at this point, try not to depend on it. Most people tell you they have a great idea that will generate for sure money. If you are really sure go to a bank and take a loan, this will give you the needed cash to build your product without having investors messing around with your business. But of course keep your risk as low as possible.
FS: Which sectors do you think have the most potential for innovation right now and why?
NW: As an App developer all possible market innovations are connected to the capabilities of the latest phones and tablets and people are also constantly changing their behaviors. Most revolutionary products are also only possible if the legal situation is given ( think of Uber). I think Health Industry, Food delivery and everything about connecting with influencers has great potential and in the future everything will be about Augmented Contact Lenses. But innovation is always expensive and you will always have big companies competing with you. My opinion is rather to focus on a niche.
FS: If you will start another company, is there anything you would do differently the second time around?
NW: Running a company is a learning process, I think everyone will do many things differently. I think I wouldn’t worry so much about branding and logo design in the beginning anymore. Because it will change many times. If you have a great product than the great thing about Apps is that your product name is not important, not even your domain etc.
The App can be downloaded at here for anyone interested!