Tech entrepreneurs come from many different backgrounds. Take twin sisters Colina and Hripsime Demirdjian, for example. The 26-year-olds took a break from law school to pursue a passion — creating an ultra-personalized emoji app. The ultimate goal was having something that people from all parts of the world would enjoy.
And that’s exactly what happened with Moji Edit, an app launched in 2016 that has become one of the top downloaded emoji apps at 600-800K installs per month. These two tech entrepreneurs have now shifted focus to Moji Edit Merch. The recently launched emoji merchandise store allows users to print their emoji on their most loved and used products.
Here’s a recent Q&A session Engine had with the Demirdjian twins to get a glimpse into the thought process for these tech entrepreneurs:
Q: Give us a little bit about your background and what led you to this idea as tech entrepreneurs?
A: We always had a creative thirst for going after our own dreams of becoming entrepreneurs. We saw there was a great space to enter with emojis as they had become a core aspect of our own social and digital world. Yet the most important thing that was missing was a lack of personal identity.
If you think back in history, all communication used to happen face-to-face and now we’ve moved into more convenient ways to communicate with each other. But as a result of that, communication has become less human. We’ve lost some of that self-expression that we once had, so being able to bring personality and fun back into everyday texting was a special thing for us. That’s fundamentally why we created Moji Edit.
Q: What was the customer response like when you started that journey?
A: What we’re seeing is that our users agree with our drive. In our early days, we wanted to verify there was a need for what we wanted to build. On our social media account, we created a survey asking users whether they’d be interested in our app idea. From there, we garnered around 5K responses that told us they would want an app like this.
After that, we dug further and created a survey asking about the potential of what they’d want the avatar to look like. So, we just gained more and more information around our idea to validate what we were wanting to do and help decide on the direction. That was the hard part.
We then moved to find our own creative developers that could actualize our vision. From there, we’ve developed something that has millions of users on our platform.
Q: What specifically did you use to gain an audience?
A: We actually ran the largest emoji handle on Instagram. It was where we posted emoji versions of songs. We’d take a segment of a song and transition that into these emojis. We had around 60K likes on the page, so we had a good audience before we tackled the initial idea.
Searching and observing the App Store in correlation to what we’re doing on social has been a large part of the success with the app. We always want to make sure we’re provided high-quality content on social and within the app to make sure that they would have a personalized experience that other apps lack. That allowed us to surpass our competitors in the space.
Q: What sort of background did you all have that helped you become successful tech entrepreneurs?
A: We had to rely on research and our own network of friends in helping get us to where we want to be. But I think it was more about the passion and obsession we had with building this thing than anything else. We made sure that we pursued our innate potential in making sure we created something that would be valuable in the future. From that thirst, we were able to make something valuable.
I think there’s a common mistake that most people assume you need a technical background to create something in tech, but you don’t. You need the vision and then it becomes about surrounding yourself with people that help you actualize it. You just have to have that vision to take it to where you want it to be.
Q: What were the first monetization paths you looked at?
A: From the outset, we wanted to implement features that would encourage you just to share the emoji. We told ourselves that if we prompt users to share the emoji, we could then repurpose the user-generated content to craft an effective marketing campaign.
From there, our monetization model was very simple. Our goal was to accumulate as many users as we could and engage them until they’re willing to pay for an upgrade. Thus, we decided to adopt a premium business model which allowed users to try the app, gain access to a preview of what the app offered, and then see the immediate value to unlock the content. This proved to be a successful model for us because it provided the optimal balance for driving traffic and monetizing from our users.
As the metrics started coming in, seeing the right price points were crucial in upselling to our users. When users notice they were going to receive the most value for their dollar by purchasing the “unlock” option, we were able to harness that and turn it into paying, loyal users that would pass along their creations to serve as brand advocates for us. All of the creations through the app had a specific watermark, which allowed us to have social proof.
Q: What was that initial testing process like?
A: So we created different tiers in that approach. We created a tier that allowed you to unlock certain accessories and a tier that allowed you to unlock all features.
I think the main thing was the difference in what we did with the pricing. We made the pricing to unlock everything more encouraging for them to go ahead with that option and that would be the option that would give us the most return on our investment. From there, we’d be able to get back the initial investment we created to build the app and also build out more features.
We started this as a passion project. Our main goal is to monetize it, but we didn’t initially do it for that intention. We just wanted to make sure we gave users something that we could refine, so that’s why we made the monetization something that is good value for them and also a good return on investment for us.
Q: How do you look at your relationship with the App Store?
A: Although it’s great to build on the App Store, our vision was always to build the ultimate lifestyle emoji brand online and offline. That’s the part of the vision we’re trying to accomplish today. It’s the time for us to take our business and move it outside the App Store. What better way to do that than to create an emoji merchandise store that allows users to take their emoji different places? We’ve found a lot of people have been very encouraged to go in and try the store once they create their emoji.
Q: As you evolve as tech entrepreneurs, what things have you most excited about the future?
A: We’re transitioning all our assets into 3D, so we’re working with augmented reality and virtual reality. With that, users will be able to interact with their emoji in real time. That’s got us really excited. We’ve got about a 20,000 beta testing group and that allows us to see our users interacting and really has us enjoying what we’re doing. We’re working on making sure that we’re always at the forefront of the latest technology and creating the best value for our users.
The co-founders and tech entrepreneurs remain the brains behind the Instagram page (@mojiedit). That’s the best way to follow their journey and see what’s new with Moji Edit moving forward. You can also check out the site by clicking here.