Buzzvil is a mid-size startup based in Korea which currently has 8 million users throughout South Korea, Japan and Taiwan after launching its mobile lock screen advertising service “Honeyscreen” in January 2013. The service allows users to receive points from advertisers every time they unlock a lock screen and use points like cash.
The company also launched “BuzzScreen,” a software development kit (SDK) to activate a lock screen function in the existing app with a simple insertion, in May last year. Advertising partners utilizing BuzzScreen are able to deliver messages to users on the first screen of their smartphones and expose advertising contents after receiving them from Buzzvil. The generated advertising revenue in a lock screen are shared by the two companies. With the service, Buzzvil can increase users and sales while partners can maximize DAU and retention rates without additional marketing fees. The company also provides the lock screen service to various apps, including SK Planet’s OK Cashback, BC Card, Culture Land and Whowho 114.
In regard to his motive to start business, Buzzvil CEO Lee Kwan-woo said, “I was inspired by the screen door at a subway station at the early stage of startup. The advertisements on the screen caught my eyes and I tried to take a photo of them. At the very moment, I came up with the idea that a lock screen could be more effective way to show advertisements. With the idea, I started developing HoneyScreen.”
Soon, Lee and other 10 members decided to live together focusing on research and development. After putting their heads together to R&D even on the weekends, they were able to launch Cash Slide, and the platform quickly expanded the market with the competitiveness.
He said, “When I was in elementary school, I developed a “door fixing device” and won the Presidential Award in an invention contest. I actually commercialized the invention after collecting the cash prize.”
When Lee started the business as a student, he felt inadequate and wanted to learn how to manage a business. So, he majored in business at the university but couldn’t learn about how to set up and run a startup. This was why he just founded a startup to acquire practical business skills through hands-on experience.
He co-founded his first startup “ITOPF” with his senior at the club. The company’s first business model was a product which automatically cooks an instant food with an appropriate time when a user puts it in the microwave by labeling a bar code on the product and installing a bar code scanner on the microwave. Lee made an effort to develop a bar code scanning technology for a year. Pivoting his recognition technology, Lee developed a mobile code transmission technology which was acquired by Naver later.
Then, he established two startups – “Postwing,” a patent solution platform provider, and “dailypick,” a social commerce company – in succession. When Ticket Monster took over dailypick, Lee served as head of the operation, turning the company with 120 employees into a large e-commerce site with 1,200 employees in three years.
Buzzvil’s lock screen advertising platform enables users to subscribe advertisements and contents in any apps with a simple insertion of SDK and to use various items at no charge in the apps by using points.
For instance, Auction can raise purchasing conversion rates by directly exposing deals on a lock screen when Buzzvil’s lock screen SDK is installed in its app. Auction users can also get a discount by 5,000 won (US$4.24) a month by saving points via a lock screen platform. The service was first patented in Korea in April 2013 and is currently patented in about 20 countries, such as Japan and Taiwan.
The lock screen service is now available in Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia and more than 8 million users make use of it. When users subscribe the service with mobile carriers, like SoftBank in Japan, Taiwan Mobile in Taiwan and Axiata in Southeast Asia, they are offered a discount on wireless charges.
“Our vision is to make all mobile experiences free through the potential of the lock screen service. We have foreign branch offices in Japan and Taiwan, and let local members develop localized services. At the initial stage, the offices were led by Korean members who were fluent in local languages and resided in the countries for a long time. However, there was a limit to develop services completely blending in culture of the nations,” he said.
So, Lee selected local members after thorough interviews and has established its localization strategy and strong partnerships.
He said, “HoneyScreen ranked top in Google Play in Japan and Taiwan and is seeing the steady increase in users. The company is expanding BuzzScreen partners centered on local mobile carriers, point apps and content app operators. We are also working together home and abroad with the talented with expertise and global mind, including developers from Silicon Valley and UI/UX designers in France. Buzzvil aims to transform into a company with a broader perspective by increasing the employment of global talent.”
Lee is still hungry. He plans to develop more global markets, attract overseas investment and form international partnerships.
“Based on its experience in the markets of Korea, Japan and Taiwan, the company will expand HoneyScreen service to more diverse markets. Moreover, we will effectively bring the service in mobile carriers, point apps, content apps and commerce apps to improving their engagement in it and strengthen BuzzScreen model which enables them to earn profits through the advertisement, Currently, we are under discussion about an alliance with numerous mobile service operators and publishers,” he said.
Buzzvil has been also attracting investment smoothly. At the end of last year, the company received a 13 billion won (US$11.2 million) from five separate investors comprised of LB investment, KTB Network, POSCO Ventures, Company K Partners, and ES Investment. Since it already started to make profits from the year before last, the company has no plans to attract additional investment at the moment. However, Buzzvil plans to draw an additional investment even from foreign venture capital firms when needed for aggressive global expansion.