Six Quick Questions: Si Shen

Si Shen, co-founder and CEO of PapayaMobile, says that she sees tremendous momentum building up for Google’s Android operating system in Asia. Even in Japan, which tends to be friendlier to Apple products. Carriers throughout Asia are working on Android, she says. “It’s going to keep building.”

Shen was in San Francisco last month to talk about Beijing-based PapayaMobile. The mobile social networking and gaming company recently raised $4 million from DCM to finance the launch of its new mobile social networking platform on Android devices.

Although just 28, Shen already has a storied career. At age 16, she gained admittance to Tsinghua University in Beijing, where she earned a degree in computer science. She then moved to California, where she earned two master’s degrees at Stanford University.

With schooling out of the way, Shen joined Google and became product manager in China, where she built the company’s mobile business. After the iPhone was released and Android was being developed, Shen says she saw a need to develop a mobile social network centered on casual games.

Shen launched PapayaMobile, which also has an office in Menlo Park, Calif., with Wenjie Qian, a former classmate in 2008. The 28-employee company boasts a dozen games on the Android platform and it has more 3.5 million global users. Shen tells VCJ Managing Editor Alastair Goldfisher that growth on Android has been very fast in the past six months.

Q: Why is Android such an important platform for you to develop on?


If you look at the U.S. market, and at California particularly, you would think the iPhone is the No. 1 mobile phone. But worldwide, Android has a lot greater appeal. In China, Android games are bigger than iPhone games. We see a lot of opportunities in Asia, and we also think that Android will become a huge player in Asia given the amount of effort and investment that NTT Docomo and others carriers and manufacturers have put into the platform.

Q: Aren’t most of your users in the United States?

A: Yes. About 85% of our users are here, with about 10% in Europe. However, the number of users in China is growing fast. Android has a bright future in the international markets.

Q: Have you considered adding location-based services to your apps?


Yes, we’ve experimented with it. You will see LBS integrated into a lot more apps in the coming year or two. The question for many developers is, ‘How to monetize LBS?’

Q: Is it easier to create and market an Android app?


Definitely. The problem with the iPhone market is that it’s too crowded. If you’re not in the Apple App Store, it’s difficult, almost impossible, to get noticed on the iPhone. It’s not like that on the Android.

Q: What do you think of Google Checkout?


A lot of users have complaints about it. It’s only available in a few countries, which makes it hard for developers to expand. We need an easy-to-use billing system for cross-platforms and different geographies. There is a billing solution and Google may not have it right now, but they’re in a position to fix the problem.

Q: What are your fund-raising plans for future rounds.


In terms of capital usage, we’re very efficient. The cost of operating in Beijing is much less than what it is here in the United States. As we expand our products and services to a global scale, we look forward to partnering with our investment partners at DCM, who bring a wealth of global gaming experience. But I don’t anticipate we’ll raise more capital anytime soon.