Line, the messaging company that went public in the year’s highest IPO to date, is diversifying its business and focusing on social after it invested $45 million (50 billion KRW) in Snow, a Snapchat clone focused on Asia.
The deal sees Line take 25 percent equity in Snow, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. Snow made headlines this summer for racking up downloads in Japan, Korea, China and Southeast Asia with a product that looks very much like Snapchat. This investment is not quite as surprising as it might first seem, since Line’s parent company Naver is the parent company of Snow, too. Essentially, the two are cousins, albeit that Line is very much the older family member.
Snow features more than 30 different filters and over 700 stickers, making it like Snapchat on steroids — arguably with a cleaner interface. Neither the company nor Line has said how many downloads Snow has received. The New York Times speculated that it had crossed 30 million in June, and the app has taken the top download spot in Japan, Korea, China and other markets.
Line’s core messaging app service has emerged as one of the most popular services in many parts of Asia, but there are some question marks around its future. The app counts 218 million monthly active users, two-thirds of which are in Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia, but it only added 13 million to that figure over the last year. That’s around six percent growth, and it goes some way to explain this investment.
Line isn’t solely focused on messaging. It also offers a number of connected games and apps that tap into the Line messenger friend graph, as well as photo apps B612, Egg and Line Camera. The company has managed to diversify its revenue, too. It grossed $1 billion in sales in 2015, which included revenue from official accounts for companies, in-app purchases within its games and stickers. Sales of stickers amounted to an impressive $270 million in sales last year.
Previous investments from Line include games studio 4:33, while it has a fund for apps that work with its chat app, and it has put money into at least nine U.S. startups.