Emoji mad: LA startup shares tips on how to raise funds

Emoji mad: LA startup shares tips on how to raise funds
The world has gotten just a wee bit emotional with those little expressive yellow faces that have usurped the need for words.


A Los Angeles-based startup company Emoticon Inc has taken this emotional outburst further, with an iphone app called Makemoji which allows users to create their own emojis.

Users can use the Makemoji app to add their own personal touch, including using an existing personal photo to make an emoji. Users can pick from hundreds of preset emojis on the app, or make their own from scratch using shapes, colours and photos.

They can then share their creations on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or text their creations to people in the social network.

Emoticon founder Tyler Breton says the app was launched about 30 days ago and have been downloaded by 25,000 users. “Our Facebook page has over 42,000 likes.”

The startup has successfully raised US$1 million in seed money from Bellwether Lifestyle Management, LLC.

Breton, who has spent a week in Auckland a few years ago, describes New Zealand as an “awesome” place.

Here he helps Idealog readers with some quick tips on some key things to focus on when making how to raise money.

Proof of demand: The first is to show proof of your concept and demonstrate who your users are and whether there is going to be demand for your product.

“We had 4000 users signed up (from all over the world) before the launch, and our Facebook page had 42,000 likes when we met with investors.”

The competition: Startups also need to explain the facts of what is happening in the marketplace, the competition and the potential sources of revenue.

The social media user: Next, tell the story of what the social media user is worth to your company. Have a clear strategy on how you are going to acquire these users for your product.

Top challenges

Here are some of the top challenges Breton faced in developing and crystalising his app idea.

- Finding the right developers who can get Apple’s approval for the go-ahead.
- Deciding on which features to give users, more specifically the “create” screen, and features enabling users to create the emojis.
- Not anticipating the server’s ability to handle volumes. It had 2000 users trying to sign up in an hour, causing overload on the company’s server.
- The devil is in the detail. Make sure every issue is being worked out with designers and developers before the launch.
Beta testing can also be a real challenge. Watch out for the challenge of scale. Makemoji wanted to get feedback from users but couldn't test with all the 4000 who have signed up. Apple only allows tests with 100 users.

Breton says the idea for Makemoji came about when he realised the lack of unique emojis. “I looked at all of the conversations I started having with my friends all over the world, and almost all of them were using emojis. It’s so intuitive and self explanatory.”

The main problem, he figured, was iOS, Android and Facebook emojis was the lack of personalisation. “If I want to express myself, I should be able to make the emoji I think describes ‘happiness’ not what these big companies are telling me happiness looks like.”

Emojis were first developed by Shigetaka Kurita for use on Japan telco NTT Docomo's (i-mode) messaging platform. Kurita initially set out to paint the entire range of human emotion in a total of 176 (12-pixel by 12-pixel) characters. This range expanded over time to over 200.

It wasn’t until 2010 that the language for emoji were encoded using Unicode, a universal language for geeks, allowing emojis to be widely used. Published reports note that as of Unicode 7.0, there are about 550 characters that are considered emojis.

Different apps have sprouted up, built around getting users to communicate entirely using emojis. Examples are Emojli, Emojicate, Hipmoji (all things cool, including glasses), Imoji (you can turn your selfie into an emotion).Then there’s Steven, an app that allows you to share your status using emojis.

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick has its own emoji version. Translated by 800 people over 1000 hours, the book – called Emoji Dick – was funded by 83 people using Kickstarter crowdfunding.