If2015 was the year we colored, 2016 is fast becoming the year we colored onmobile. Sitting at the helm of this trend is app developer Sumoing, which is behind Recolor, the hit coloring app takingoverworked adults everywhere by storm.
According to Sumoing CEO Ilkka Teppo, Recolor had 500,000new users in the first week of May and "it sees plenty of opportunities todevelop this further," he said in an interview with SNL Kagan.
Whenthe coloring craze first gathered pace last year, it proved surprisinglyaddictive. An estimated 12million adult coloring books were sold in the U.S. last year compared tojust 1 million the previous year, according to research firm Nielsen Bookscan.But coloring books have demonstrated that they also have global appeal andsecured four spots in the top 20 books on Amazon.com Inc.'s 2015 best-sellerlist.
Withthe explosive rise in coloring on mobile phones, it is hard to overstate thetrend. Launched last summer, Recolor has quietly worked its wayup to the second mostdownloaded free entertainment app in the U.S. iOS store afterNetflix Inc., placingit ahead of app heavyweights such as Spotify Ltd., Hulu LLC, HBO Now and Amazon Video. It occupies the 36thspot in the U.S. across all app categories.
According to figures from App Annie, Recolor is a top 10 appin about 14 countries, including its native Finland, and the U.K., where itis ranked second ahead of Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Sky Go and ITV Hub. In April,the app reportedly doubledits growth from the previous month, acquiring more than 2 million users andhosting 30 million coloring sessions.
Recolor was given another boost when and the World Wildlife Fundfeatured it in its "Appsfor Earth" campaign alongside mobile gaming sensations Angry Birds andCandy Crush Soda Saga, part of the Candy Crush series.
Teppo said that competing in a noisy and crowded app market,particularly in the competitive entertainment category, requires developers tocreate "something new that is ten times better than existing apps on themarket."
He added that running a small team of six, alongside ahandful of freelance illustrators, has also been essential to Sumoing and Recolor'ssuccess.
"It's a really small team but that's the beauty of theapps business," Teppo explained, pointing out that Instagram had 13employees, catering to hundreds of millions of users, at the time of itsacquisition by FacebookInc., while WhatsApp had 33 when it was sold to the social mediagiant.
"The market changes fast and you need to react just asquickly. Small, focused, agile teams fare best in the app industry," headded.
Alreadyprofitable on a monthly basis and with a revenue run rate set at $5 millionthis year, Sumoinghas been bootstrapped for the most part since it was established in 2012.
From a revenue perspective, Sumoing is certainly in theminority. VisionMobile's latest Developer Economics reportfound that more than half of mobile developers are operating below the apppoverty line of $500 a month in revenue. At present, Recolor is available for free butincludes subscription options for $2.99 weekly, $7.99 monthly and $39.99annually.
However, the key question for investors will be whethercoloring proves to be a long-term, sustainable trend in a congested andfast-changing app economy, according to eMarketer senior analyst Bryan Yeager.
The proliferation of quality applications for mobile devicesmeans the app space continues to feel more crowded. In a recent report, AppAnnie estimated that downloads will morethan double in the next four years to reach 284 billion in 2020, largelydue to a rise in emerging market smartphone adoption.
Of the numerous apps available in app stores, Yeager pointed out that mostof our time as consumers is typically concentrated on a select few such asFacebook, YouTube, Google Maps and Spotify.
"Consumers are fickle. Standing out is really hard when there are somany products and only a limited amount of attention," Yeager concluded.
Until now, Sumoing,whichhas more than 25 million downloads across its six creativity apps, had mostlyfocused on English speaking markets like the U.K., Australia and the U.S.,which accounts for 60% to 70% of its total user base.
The Finnish developer is now engaged in discussions withpotential investors and strategic partners to support its expansion into Asianmarkets such as Japan,Korea and China, as wellas Latin America later this year. A maiden, series A round would be in linewith its ambitions "to become the go-to global brand for digitalcoloring," Teppo said.