by Anam Alpenia
Smartphone purchases in the developing world are rocketing. In southeast Asia, where YOYO Holdings, an innovative mobile advertising firm has set up shop, the market is growing 65% year on year.
In 2014 the firm, with backing from co-founder and CEO Yosuke Fukada’s native Japan, began working on its solution, PopSlide. Launched this March it aims to connect the next billion smartphone users with mobile airtime via advertising rented out to their handsets’ lockscreens.
“The Next Billion” has become one of this year’s tech buzzphrases. Not only have a number of events sprung up in search of tech-driven answers to developing world problems, but Google has recently introduced a raft of new products aimed at those without the buying power of users in established mobile markets.
In fact it’s far more than a billion. The southeast Asian nations targeted by the young firm total some 1.8bn people in total, including India, which is where Fukada is eyeing his biggest future success.
His decision to start in the Philippines might seem a little strange at first. Not so, given the country’s demographics. “In the Philippines the market size is actually not good compared to other markets,” he tells Red Herring. “But it is easy to start here since every user can understand English.
“And I also can talk to users directly and get their feedback,” Fukada adds. “After improving the quality of the product we expanded to other markets–Indonesia, Vietnam and India–so this is a trial market.”
PopSlide works on a simple premise, encouraging users to read or swipe or click on ads posted to the lockscreen by major retailers and brands. Ads might be magazine articles, job offers, videos or a company’s landing page.
Each interaction wins the user mobile airtime–as do friend referrals. PopSlide is ranked number one Google download in the Philippines and Indonesia, and has over 1.6m users.
“95% of people are using pre-paid phones,” says the co-founder, who previously worked at Tokyo gaming developer DeNA. “So they need top-ups to use smartphones. And these points will combat top-up.”
Fukada claims that PopSlide’s biggest boon to clients is that it can provide them with good quality users, from demographics that haven’t previously been tapped. The corporates are listening: customers include Unilever, McDonalds and Nestle.
Little wonder Fukada’s youthful charm breaks into raffishness when he describes the company, which with offices in Singapore, Manila and, lately, Bangalore, now employs 30 staff to reach advertising’s next big wave of users.
It is the latter location to which Fukada and co are most keen to capitalize. South Asia’s Internet ads market is set to grow to more than $5bn by 2018, the majority of which will be smartphone-driven.
That is why the Philippines, not India, became the proving ground for a platform already showing healthy traction in a booming marketplace. The Next Billion is one of tech’s biggest understatements. PopSlide looks set to take advantage of that.