As any pet owner knows, sometimes the antics of your beloved mutt or feisty feline just beg to be seen around the internet, but smartphone videos uploaded to YouTube often just don’t look right when viewed on a computer screen.
Seeing a niche in this market, Mobiusbobs released their Pamily smartphone app in May, 2016 as part of their social network centered on pet videos. The app allows users to not only capture their pets’ liveliest moments on video, but also enhance their clips with a wide variety of shooting modes, filters, stickers, and sound effects.
With a vibrant online community already eagerly sharing and commenting on pet videos, the Pamily app became a hit in the US and Taiwan upon its launch. As of today, the app has seen more than 300,000 videos uploaded, with each user spending roughly 20 minutes in the app every day, and a monthly retention rate of 60%. These figures show that Pamily enjoys higher satisfaction and loyalty than even SnapChat or Twitter.
Says James Shen, cofounder of Mobiusbobs, “We have more than 200,000 members worldwide, with a monthly growth rate of 50-60%. We expect this number to continue growing, since as many as one in five people in Taiwan keeps a cat or a dog, and as many as 200 million people in the US are pet owners.”
With roughly 100,000 users each in the US and Taiwan, Pamily is now increasing its pet video exposure and membership through collaborations with several media and internet platforms in Taiwan, and through uploading and sharing on pet forums and online communities in the US.
A young man at 27 this year, Mobiusbobs cofounder James Shen first wrote a YouBike app for Taipei’s popular bike sharing system, so riders could know how long and where to wait for a bike. With more than 300,000 downloads in the first month after launch, the YouBike app brought Shen instant fame.
Shen then cofounded their company with a few friends, and released the news aggregator and navigator Trigger. Although the app did attract a loyal user base, it ultimately folded due to copyright concerns, and because Trigger was not a content provider itself.
With the future of Mobiusbobs hanging in the balance, the three cofounders — James Shen, Yiting Lin, and Jimi Wen — brainstormed new ideas while trying to secure new funding.
As James Shen recalls, “It was a period of heavy setbacks. We were left with less than NT$1 million [roughly US$31000] of our initial NT$3 million [roughly US$93000] investment, and could at the most last for only three more months. In addition to finding a new path for us, we also had to worry about where the money would come from.”
A crucial set of three decisions brought them attention from YouTube cofounder Steve Chen, and now armed with NT$190 million [roughly US$6 million] from CID, Cherubic Ventures, YouTube cofounder Steve Chen, and other angel investors, Mobiusbobs aims to turn a profit within two years. What were the three decisions that brought Mobiusbobs so much attention from investors?
Target a highly loyal customer base
Seeing that many internet users already use YouTube to share videos, Mobiusbosbs believed they could target a specific audience with an app facilitating video uploads. They decided in early 2015 to focus on the pet owner community, since this was one with high adhesion that needed to share videos and information, as well as a need for shopping for pet-related merchandise. This gave firth to the Pamily app in May, 2016.
Pick up immediately after failure
Shen stresses the importance of failure for startups: “The earlier you fail, the earlier you know that this is a dead end, and the earlier you can switch to another path.” Shen feels that many people in Taiwan are afraid to face failure head-on, but in foreign cultures — and especially for foreign investors — people place much more importance on “your past failures and what you’ve learned from them.”
Shen says, “Currently nobody else has the capacity to write an app like this. We see no competition to date in terms of technological capabilities and community management. Even if I release the source code for competitors to copy, they still need at least half a year before they can even catch up.”
Pamily’s greatest strength: A vertical community with unique values
Even with no competitors for the time being, Mobiusbobs is not one to rest on their laurels, and Shen has brought his team overseas to participate in competitions and market their brand even as they secured funding for their company. The team saw multiple successes in 2015, receiving a Winner award at the San Francisco Launch Festival and Hackathon, a Taiwanese Winner award at the B Dash Asian Startup competition, and was ranked first place on the the international startup platform Product Hunt.
Steve Chen has highly praised Pamily’s focus on the pet owner community: “There has been a great demand in the vertical community market that has been underserved by current services, and entering this market at this point in time holds a lot of opportunities and prospects.”
Chen also suggests that Pamily allows users to use embedded code when sharing their videos, so that Pamily retains the viewing traffic, while also enabling users to more easily share their videos, thereby increasing the number of shares.
Future plans: A pet-oriented online community and marketing channels
Pamily plans to introduce discussion boards into its app, allowing users to exchange pet-related information, and increase user adhesion and time spent in the app. In the future, the company plans to create marketing channels and establish their own brand through an online shop. In Shen’s words, “Taiwan’s pet merchandise market is worth an annual NT$40 billion [roughly US$1.26 billion], and the US market is worth a staggering NT$2.2 trillion [roughly US$69 billion], and we are preparing to command a share of this market.”
Original author: Lin yahui； Translator：Kevin Nian-kai Wang