While video-based social media apps abound in China, success does always not come in equal numbers. If you’re among the legions of mobile app users in China, you may have already heard of Tian Tian Inc. In November 2016, Tian Tian transferred hands and was quickly acquired by Yixia Technology, all within a short span of 8 months.
Yixia Technology, in turn, is most well-known as the maker of China's short video app Miaopai and live streaming app. It also serves as video content provider to China's largest social network Weibo.
This article talks about how our team in Hong Kong helped developed a core feature in Tian Tian that led to their exit in the short span of 8 months.
The problem: How can we generate traction as an early-stage consumer app?
The challenge for Tian Tian was one that all early-stage consumer can identify with: traction.
How can we create user traction by developing a core feature in our app that users would love? As a video-based social media app, the best way was to enable users to make viral videos that would in turn draw more users into the app.
Drawing from the success stories in the US, the Tian Tian team decided to develop Snapchat-like video recording features to enable users to create more engaging content that would be shared. In more concrete terms, they needed a built-in feature and native camera for recording that would enable Chinese users to annotate and create video stories.
The solution: Developing Snapchat-like video recording and editing features
Tian Tian’s software development team in San Francisco was running a tight timeline and needed extra mobile app development engineers to work on this feature. More importantly, they needed software engineers who were comfortable working in Agile and could deliver high-quality, reusable code.
Our team of software engineers were thus enlisted to create Snapchat-like features for Android for the Chinese market.
We needed to find a way to make the video recording feature high-quality and work in a maintainable and modular fashion with the rest of the code base.
One of the inherent challenges we faced was undoubtedly how to build a high-end product, while simultaneously optimizing for simpler mobile devices with lower specs. In other words, how do we deliver the same level of sophistication, while bringing it to the simplest level in order to target markets in China?
Though ostensibly simple at first, this Snapchat- like feature was critical in contributing to Tian Tian’s ultimate business strategy. Features like tagging, adding text and emoticons and annotating videos (à la Instagram Live story or Snapchat) may seem conceptually simple at first --but actually prove to be quite technically challenging to build. This involved the creation of proprietary technology as well as R&D that became a critical part to the success of the app.
Over the course of 3-5 months, our software engineers put their heads together and worked alongside Tian Tian’s development team in San Francisco. Unlike other companies at the time which catered to the lower-grade mobile phones typically found in China’s market, our team did not want to risk comprising integrity in quality. Even if this meant consuming lots of mobile battery, our first and foremost priority was ensuring a smooth, product-centric user experience.
Anyone who has ever used these built-in features should understand that paying attention to these little details is of utmost importance. The payoff is multifold: the dynamic, interpersonal interaction it enables for the end user is a delightful experience which can dramatically enhance a user’s experience.
The result: Exit within 8 months
As co-founder and CEO of Tian Tian and now special consultant to Yixia Technology, Kenneth King, together with his team, recounts how this was no easy feat. In addition to completing a sprint which culminated in a full prototype by October, his team had to learn to quickly adapt to the structural nuances in the Chinese market. But most importantly, they were able to do the unthinkable: exit their startup in a mere 8 months.
There are many moving parts to mobile app development.
At Altitude Labs, where mobile app development sits squarely as one of our areas of expertise, we work with both startups and corporate to help build tech products that will lead to tangible business impact.
In the case of Tian Tian, it led to an exit for the founding team. In the case of the other entrepreneurs we work with like Lynk or Guavapass, it could lead to a next funding round or growing users on their app.
One of our core tenets is working with our clients every step of the way. Treating them as partners is one soundproof way in order to facilitate their success.
Have a product, design or development challenge we could help with? Reach out to us for a chat here.