Real life, online
Ann Ding introduces the application Stampme to the market by employing artists to create digital versions of real life users. [Photo provided to Shanghai Star]
In a world of mass produced products, customized items are hotly sought after - even in the online world.
Personalization is the new trend - even in the virtual world.
Ann Ding, who worked in Japan for nearly 10 years, has latched on to the demand for personalization by launching Me Inc with Stampme, a personalized animated emoji application for young people to customize their emojis when they use social media.
Ding noticed that there is a huge unexplored market among people in their early 20s, who have leisure and money and spend lots of time online.
"More young people are not satisfied with reading comic books or watching animation, they want to get involved with the animated space by having personalized animated characters," says Ding, who used to be an engineer.
A series of applications including Bookfaces (the former version of stampme) were introduced to the Japanese market in 2011 as a trial program by Ding, who was trying to test the waters.
It started simple. Bookfaces was an application that allowed users to get a customized animated portrait for about 300 yuan ($49). The users would upload their photos to the platform and professional painters designed personalized portraits.
It quickly gained popularity among Japanese users thanks to its simplicity.
After gaining experience painting portraits for people, Ding established the company in Beijing before moving back to Shanghai, her hometown, in 2013, which has a more mature animation culture.
"Since we moved from Beijing to Shanghai the company has transformed. We have been focusing on the development of Stampme, which now is the star application in our company," Ding says.
To add more personalized elements and attract more users, Stampme was launched in 2014 to be a customized dynamic emoji creator, a nod to the rise of animated GIFs in social networks.
Stampme has over 10 thousand downloads a day. Users can personalize emojis by choosing face shape, eyes, nose, mouth, emotion, and even clothes from the online database uploaded by Ding's team. The database was created by about 3,000 contracted professional painters, over 50 of which are based in Japan. Ding employs 10 full-time painters in the office.
"The regularly updated database available for users to customize dynamic emojis is a combination of animated portraits and dynamic emotion, which is more vivid for young people to insert into the conversation," Ding says.
To retain freshness and curiosity for both new and established customers, Stampme updates its emoji packages almost everyday, adding popular phrases, seasonal scenery and funny backgrounds to the database for people to choose and build their own emojis.
"More people see mobile phones as a way to demonstrate their personalities, so we are helping them show their unique personality without going to shopping malls to purchase colorful clothes," Ding says.
Ding plans to have Stampme cooperate with certain online platforms such as social and game applications and design special emoji packages for their users to download.
"We are keen to be the face of real people in the animated world, where people are able to express their happiness, anger, sadness and cheerfulness with a click on their cell phones," Ding says.
How to contact
Me Inc (Stampme)
Fact sheet of Me Inc
Business model: an emoji cell phone application
Staff: about 30 people
Start-up capital: one million dollars
Turnaround time: within one year
Working hours: 10 am - 7 pm
The most downloaded emojis
Targeted at people in their early 20s, Stampme is a personalized way to communicate on social platforms by sending animated emojis to replace text. The following are three top rated emojis downloaded by users.
Being self-willed with eating
The emoji package about food has been popular since its launch. All these emojis show the exaggerated expression of people who are eating a variety of dishes with delight and excitement.
The emoji package was designed especially for people born after 1990, who follow a soap opera featuring the leading man as an overbearing president. The overbearing president refers to the rich man who spends money on his girlfriend without thinking.
I am Sagittarius
Horoscope emoji series are always very popular among female users with their personalized head portraits and amusing descriptions of their horoscopes. As the highest rated emoji package in the series, I am Sagittarius shows the spirit of great love spread by Sagittarius.