MomentCam, a smartphone application that converts pictures of the user into cute cartoon characters has become a hit overnight in China

MomentCam app, China’s latest overnight sensation

Staff Reporter

2013-11-06

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Three cartoon portraits made with the MomentCam app. (Internet Photo)

A smartphone application that converts pictures of the user into cute cartoon characters has become a hit overnight in China, with the number of subscribers topping 20 million in the fourth months after its launch. The application, called MomentCam in English — a phonetic rendering of the Chinese which means “magic manga camera,” rose to the top of the free apps category on the Apple online store in China in just three days and notched a record 3.25 million subscribers a day. On the back of its rapid success, it recently attracted a 10 million yuan (US$1.64 million) loan.The software was created by two young people, Ren Xiaoqing and Huang Guangming, both members of the Dark Horse Development Camp, a platform dedicated to startups.

Ren Xiaoqian, a fine-arts major, conceived of the idea when working as a souvenir designer for Walmart in the US in 2006. “A popular [design] for Walmart back then was planting a human face on the body of a cartoon character, although the effect was quite ugly as well as the dark background. This gave me the idea to render photographs of people in a cartoony comic style, believing that it would be even more popular,” Ren said.

In 2008, she encountered Huang Guangming, then a manager at Microsoft, and they decided to combine their respective expertise in the fields of fine art and computing by returning to China to found a startup.

The company initially dedicated itself to the production of custom-made cartoon souvenirs for some major local companies before Ren decided to switch to online business entirely due to the ceiling for offline products and her dislike of the need to entertain clients to drum up business.

From a slow start, the MomentCam app suddenly became a hit overnight. “We were not mentally prepared for the phenomenal growth of subscribers,” Ren admitted. The number of downloads topped 1 million in one month and 10 million in three months as people became aware of the software, which converts a photograph of a human into a cartoon figure in the space of a few seconds.

Ren said the challenge now is how to maintain the number of subscribers to avoid it becoming a short-lived fad, a fate that has befallen a great many applications in China.

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About Koon Boon Kee
Bamboo Innovator Institute is set up to establish the thought leadership of resilient value creators around the world. KB Kee is the Managing Editor of the Moat Report Asia (www.moatreport.com), a research service focused exclusively on highlighting undervalued wide-moat businesses in Asia. The Moat Report is developed together with our European partners The Manual of Ideas (www.manualofideas.com), the idea-oriented acclaimed monthly research publication for institutional and private investors. The MRA’s paid-subscribers from North America, Europe, the Oceania and Asia include professional value investors with over $20 billion in asset under management in equities and savvy private individual investors. KB has presented his thought leadership as a keynote speaker in global investing conferences with speakers including famed serious investors Donald Yacktman, Howard Marks, Jean-Marie Eveillard etc. KB has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy, macroeconomic and industry trends in Singapore, HK and China. KB has been rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets. He was head of research and fund manager at a Singapore-based value investment firm since 2002. As a member of the investment committee, he helped the firm’s Asia-focused equity funds significantly outperform the benchmark index. He was previously the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Mirae Asset Global Investments, Korea’s largest mutual fund company. He holds a Masters in Finance and degrees in Accountancy and Business Management, summa cum laude, from the Singapore Management University (SMU). He had also taught accounting at the SMU. He had published cutting-edge empirical research in the Special Issue of Istanbul Stock Exchange 25th Year Anniversary of the Boğaziçi Journal, Review of Social and Economic Studies, as well as wrote articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media.

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