Season 2, Episode 2

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This is a transcript of one episode of the Samsung Developers Podcast, hosted by and produced by Tony Morelan. A listing of all podcast transcripts can be found here.


Tony Morelan
Senior Developer Evangelist, Samsung Developers

Instagram - twitter - LinkedIn


Tan Nguyen
butterfly-effected GmbH

Tan Nguyen is the Director of Business Development at butterfly-effected GmbH, the company that has licensed such big brands as SpongeBob, Minions, Star Trek, South Park, Hello Kitty, and many more. Every month Galaxy Store users download over 1 million apps created by butterfly-effected, and Tan gives us a little insight into their success and their challenges.


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NOTE: Transcripts are provided by an automated service and reviewed by the Samsung Developers web team. Inaccuracies from the transcription process do occur, so please refer to the audio if you are in doubt about the transcript.


Tony Morelan 00:01

Hey, I'm Tony Morelan. And this is the Samsung Developers podcast where we chat with innovators using Samsung technologies award winning app developers and designers as well as insiders working on the latest Samsung tools. Welcome to season two, episode two. On today's show, I interview Tan Nguyen, the Director of Business Development at butterfly-effected GmbH, the company that has licensed such big brands as SpongeBob, Minions, Star Trek, South Park, Hello Kitty, and many more. Every month Galaxy Store users download over 1 million apps created by butterfly-effected, and Tan gives us a little insight into their success and their challenges. Enjoy!

Hi Tan, thanks for joining me on the podcast today. I'd like to start with who is Tan Nguyen?

Tan Nguyen 00:44

I was born in Vietnam and came to Germany at the age of five. And my mom and I belong to the last group which was able to leave Vietnam legally by plane and after that this period of the boat people think you have heard this. But yeah, we were we were the last cube which was allowed to leave legally. And I grew up in Germany, I went to school here. I basically lived my whole life in Germany. And I think you can surely hear this when I'm speaking English. Exactly. So it was that somewhat unique for you were there were there many other children from Vietnam that had ended up in Germany during that time. Most of my relatives and my family they came after, after my mom had me. And most of the Vietnamese people came to the eastern part of Germany because there was this, as you know, historically close connection between the Soviet Union and Vietnam. Sure. Many Vietnamese people first came to the eastern part of Germany, we were lucky enough back then to came to the western part. So I grew up near Frankfurt. That's where I'm still living actually. Nice. Yeah. So I had visited Europe when I was fresh out of college. And the only thing that I remember about Frankfurt is that was the airport that I landed at to go somewhere else. So I did not get a chance to actually enjoy Frankfurt. They asked some nice places. And it's true that Frankfurt is mostly new for the airport, also for the skyline, because it's, it's actually one of the few skylines we have in Germany. I think there was some study then they said that they are 25 skyscrapers in Germany and 22. in Frankfurt, actually.

Tony Morelan 02:58

Interesting. So you work for butterfly-effected, which is the company that has brought us themes from SpongeBob minions Star Trek, South Park, Hello Kitty, Fast and Furious. So tell me, what is your role at the company? And how did you first begin to work for them?

Tan Nguyen 03:14

Yeah, sure. I'm, I'm Director of Business Development and my main responsibilities, new projects, and sourcing and partner management. So I'm actually responsible for sourcing all the plants you've just mentioned. And it's quite challenging, but also really satisfying world. I've known Reiner, the CEO and founder of the company for a really long time. I worked with him when I was managing the first content portal for Samsung Electronics, Germany. So you actually worked. You actually work for Samsung? Yeah. Yeah, it's some years ago, I think it's now 10 years ago, I worked for Samsung for several years. And during that time, I've met why now. And yeah, I was managing some projects he was doing back then for Samsung. And then this is how we now have we known each other. And after he successfully launched the seams business, he asked me if I would like to join this company, and help him to bring it to the next level. And I clearly took the opportunity. And since then, I was able to secure partnerships with some really iconic brands, some of them you've just mentioned. And this indeed took downloads and revenue to a new level. And yeah, I'm quite happy about the things we've achieved so far. Wow, that's amazing.

Tony Morelan 04:49

So give me a little bit about the history of butterfly-effected.

Tan Nguyen 04:53

Butterfly Effect. It was founded in 2004. And we had the purpose offering customers new ways to personalize mobile devices might, I think the first product was a wallpaper generator, which was coded in Java, because you know, the first phones were really simple. This was before the smartphone era, the first charge our phones, and we, we offered customers back then the opportunity to integrate their own photos and the wallpapers and create our own compositions. So this was a really quite advanced, advanced technology back then. And later, we moved into the gaming business and developed different content management systems and digital platforms for international companies. But yeah, we are really happy about our partnership with Samsung, and the huge success of the themes business. And it's a little bit like going back to the woods for us. Sure, sure. Really quick.

Tony Morelan 06:02

You know, the first thing that jumped out at me when, when I learned about butterfly-effected, and all the amazing themes that you guys are creating, was the name butterfly-effected. That's a pretty unique company name. So how did you guys come up with that?

Tan Nguyen 06:19

Yeah, the name it's quite interesting. It's from our CEO, he grew up with two brothers who both became physicists later. And since they were young, they were fascinated by the butterfly effect. And I don't know if you heard about the I have not. So the butterfly effect is part of the Keogh theory that states that one small change in the situation can drastically change the outcome of an event, right? So a butterfly can flooded with wings, our flow in China, for example, and cause a hurricane in the Caribbean? Yeah, can we make so this is the basic idea about this. And this idea of stack two, two to buy now. And he was fascinated by it, because we all can make a change in this world. And so he chooses his name, and it became a driving force of our companies.

Tony Morelan 07:20

Yeah, I know, it's a very unique name, and I think fits what you guys do extremely well. Thank you. So something I've noticed is you also have a brand that is the themes So tell me how that intermixes with Butterfly-effected?

Tan Nguyen 07:38

Yes, sure. Um, the themes word is actually our own print and the unit, which operates the themes business with butterfly effected, because as, as I stated earlier, we have different fields of operations. And the themes world is actually the unit which is doing all the themes business, okay, we introduced it around six months after starting with themes and wanted to use it exclusively. But by doing so, we would have lost all the positive reviews and followers. And so we decided against it. I say, okay, a tip to all the designers out there who want to start the business, choose your name wisely at the beginning. Yeah, changes at a later point. Really difficult.

Tony Morelan 08:24

Yeah, I can, I can definitely agree with that. So when I first started, before I worked at Samsung, I was also a designer, creating watch faces and themes. And I chose the name axeir. Okay, spelled a x e i r. I chose it because it started with an A, and it was a short amount of letters, and I could get the domain name. The problem with that is that when I would tell somebody the name of my company x here, they're like, great. How do you spell it? And right away, I realized that that okay, it was not the best name. If I have to explain how to spell a five-letter name, then that wasn't a good choice, but it was too late. I'd already started publishing. So yeah, yeah, I agree with that.

Tan Nguyen 09:07

Yeah, exactly. You really have to think about it.

Tony Morelan 09:12

So you guys produce a large amount of themes. I'm assuming it's not just one designer, butterfly effect that's creating these themes. So how many designers do you have working under butterfly-effected

Tan Nguyen 09:23

at the moment we have around the I think 30 employees and additional we have many freelancers, and they are operating the things business, they are working in different teams using a well-structured process, which we created and optimized over the years. But you are totally right. We couldn't do it by our own or work for two or three. Man team so yeah, we have quite a working force and big team behind us. Luckily.

Tony Morelan 09:58

So you had mentioned that you We're working at Samsung. And that's how you met Renier? So that was the connection then between runnier learning about designing themes for Samsung.

Tan Nguyen 10:11

No, this actually happened later. Because we have a long history with Samsung. And when we provide content of for the first mobile content store, this was called the Samsung fan club. And this was already in 2006 themes that started way, way later. But yes, since 2006, we work with Samsung on different projects, and different fields, often challenging, but always fruitful. And actually, it started at the if you will cup 2016. Okay, back then, Samsung land promotion and wanted to give away free themes. So free football themes, and they ask us if we were able to provide them.

Tony Morelan 11:04

So I'm imagining that doing something for such a large event that you, you must have received an enormous amount of downloads from that initial, you know, theme that you guys created?

Tan Nguyen 11:15

Yeah, this this was really astonishing, especially as we came from different other content businesses like, for example, music and games. And after creating and offering the first themes were really amazed about the huge, huge download numbers, that's where we're on a totally different level, which we really have never anticipated. And that's actually how it started. Because after we created the first batch for free, we created the second one, and, again, received really amazing results. And then we created the third batch. And after that, we basically decided to go fully into it. And that's how everything started.

Tony Morelan 12:03

Wow, can you share some of the download numbers that you guys received?

Tan Nguyen 12:06

Yeah, sure. No problem. So in asset, which we started in 2016, and in the, in the first six months, we've generated around 800,000 downloads, wow, it was in the first eight months. And now we are at over 1.2 million a month.

Tony Morelan 12:27

So every month, you're getting 1.2 million downloads. Yes. That is amazing. So I've been doing watch face in themes designs now for about three years, I just hit 1 million. So I was very excited to reach that. In the three-year mark, and you guys are doing that monthly. That's that is truly amazing.

Tan Nguyen 12:51

Yeah, it's Yeah, I said, we were really happy. And the good thing, this is still the beginning wide, because if you look up, look at the potential. customer base on market size is huge, right? I mean, Samsung is selling hundreds and hundreds of million smartphones each year. And the theme store is pre-installed on each of these devices. So there's this so much, much more we actually can do. And that's why it's so cool to be in this place. And this business.

Tony Morelan 13:25

Definitely. So you had mentioned the butterfly effect, it does more than just themes. So tell me a little bit about those other areas that you guys are into.

Tan Nguyen 13:35

Yeah, we are also offering different content management systems and digital platforms for operators as well as publishers.

Tony Morelan 13:45

So you guys are multifaceted company. Indeed. So you'd also mentioned games. So tell me is butterfly-effected currently producing games,

Tan Nguyen 13:54

the focus has shifted from games to themes and also watch faces. We are at the moment we are creating something in the AR space because I think this is something which will be quite interesting in the coming years. But it's too early to tell you anything about it. Okay. Yeah, we are also in the AI space.

Tony Morelan 14:20

Wonderful. That's exciting. So you mentioned that you are in Frankfurt, tell me where is the company located?

Tan Nguyen 14:28

A butterfly effect it has a big office in Romania. But the headquarters is actually located near Munich. And that area and this is one of Germany's most beloved regions are very famous for the Alps. The food, the beer, yes. And of course, the very popular Oktoberfest, of course, if you hear Munich and the very other first things in mind, actually most of the times October 1 Yeah. A few Been there.

Tony Morelan 15:01

The closest I got was Austria. Oh, okay. So yeah, so I went, you know, many years ago and did a little tour of Europe. And as I had mentioned, I landed in Frankfurt, but you know, within, you know, minutes I was on my way to Austria.

Tan Nguyen 15:17

Austria sounds really nice. Yeah.

Tony Morelan 15:19

And they definitely love to celebrate Oktoberfest and their beer there as well. So as a young 21-year-old when I was there, we definitely got to enjoy Oktoberfest.

Tan Nguyen 15:29

Yeah. Great.

Tony Morelan 15:32

So this year, Butterfly Effect is one of the best of Galaxy Store Awards for Best themes collection. Super excited that you guys were the recipient of that award. Tell me what did it mean to win that award?

Tan Nguyen 15:47

Oh, this this was really, really amazing. We are extremely proud and thankful to be part of Samsung's huge ecosystem, right, we are still relatively small company. And having such respectful and fruitful cooperation with a giant company as Samsung is really, really amazing, especially in these challenging times this partnership gives us this stability. And that helps us to secure the jobs of our employees and our team to end then receiving this award might give us the motivation to do our best and to even be a better partner for Samsung in the future. And, and work even harder to give the best quality products to the Samsung customer.

Tony Morelan 16:39

Yeah, definitely. I was excited to say that you won and, and still always, always amazed at the work you put together.

Tan Nguyen 16:48

Yeah, thank you.

Tony Morelan 16:50

So a lot of your success, I know comes from marketing. So can you tell me what are some of the tools and techniques that butterfly effect it utilizes to help market your brands?

Tan Nguyen 17:03

Yeah, sure. I mean, we do, obviously, social media promotions. And in addition to that, also, instant promotions are, of course extremely important, via batches and banners. And luckily, we have a lot of big partners with very strong social media channels. Yeah. And they do also promotions and their channels. And this helps a lot to drive traffic to the Samsung store, and then increase both downloads and sales.

Tony Morelan 17:37

Yeah, I'm sure that that having that partnership with them to utilize their social channels is really beneficial. And glad to hear that you are using Galaxy Store badges a great way to help direct your customers right to your content. So

Tan Nguyen 17:52

yeah, this is extremely, extremely important. For sure.

Tony Morelan 17:55

You know, we've talked a lot about all this amazing content that you guys have created. Can you tell me about how many themes Do you think butterfly effect it has published on the Galaxy Store?

Tan Nguyen 18:06

I think up until now we've created over 30,000 themes and 1500 watch faces?

Tony Morelan 18:15

Wow, 30,000 themes. That's it's a big number. And if you take into account the other content types as of wallpapers, icons, AODs, stickers, we have a combined number of over 100,000 items in the store. Wow. Yeah, that would definitely take a large team just to just to manage is such a huge library. Definitely.

Tan Nguyen 18:39

And the good content management systems. Yeah, yeah, this helps us that we are producing this as well.

Tony Morelan 18:47

So butterfly effect it. I mean, you're known definitely for all the partnerships you have with these big brands. But do you guys do more than just that? I mean, are you doing any, you know, custom artwork that you produce into your themes?

Tan Nguyen 19:00

Yes, yes, of course. I mean, that's also why we introduced the themes world, because under this brand, we actually produce our own designs and our own artwork. And then this is also extremely successful. So it's a good tip out there that in the end, in some cases, of course, it's beneficial to have a huge partner and a huge IP. But we also teamed up with some less than on prints as and Stokes for example. Often, they generate similar even higher downloads, really, yeah, it's astonishing. It's not that you need a big IP in the end, it's the quality of the artwork and the emotions which are transported. Yeah, I think this is a good tip to all the all the designers who want to start now and think that Oh yeah, they have big pants and I have no chance. No, that's not the case. You just need Good artwork and things which Yeah. Which actually able to play and raise your emotions or the emotions of the of the customers. And that's all you need.

Tony Morelan 20:13

Yeah. So where would you say that your designers when they are designing something that is not for a big brand? Where are they getting their ideas?

Tan Nguyen 20:20

Yeah, I think they are. They're mainly looking at everyday life wide the browsing through creative websites, design magazines, interior design portals, looking at decorating trends. And of course, they also get input from customers and partners. And that's basically how we can come up with ideas.

Tony Morelan 20:42

I often get inspired just when I'm outside of my house, I would say that the watch face that kind of got me known at Samsung was a watch face that I designed based off of a wheel of a Ferrari that I was at a stoplight, and this car pulled up next to me and I look and it's this Ferrari, and they had this absolutely beautiful rim to you know, on the wheel. And I looked at that and I thought, you know what, I could turn that into a watch face. Well turn that into a watch face and the rest is history. That's how Samsung got to know me. That's cool. That's nice. Let's go back and talk a bit about the brands. What are some of the big top brands the butterfly effect it has licensed

Tan Nguyen 21:20

yet name Have you? We teamed up with NBC Universal CBS, Nickelodeon. NFLPA as a partner, which, which had the Hello Kitty pant. Yes. Really, really popular. Then also Paramount Pictures, Konami. Um, so it's really a wide range from the gaming media, and even to music. Yeah, we are also teamed up with Sony Music. Really? Yeah, we are really proud about all our partners. And yeah, we are quite successful in this field.

Tony Morelan 22:03

And it's really interesting to hear that you've partnered with Sony Music. When I was a freelance graphic designer, one of the projects I got to work on was with Sony Music, where I designed Madonna's first website and Bruce Springsteen's first website, and many other of the artists that were under this Sony label, so yeah, so I did a little work for Sony back in the day.

Tan Nguyen 22:26

This is cool. What a small world, right?

Tony Morelan 22:28

Yes. So I'm sure working with some of these big brands that there must be some challenges. So can you talk a little bit about some of the challenges that you've had to face? Oh, yeah, there

Tan Nguyen 22:41

are a lot of to be honest, when we started, it was the first challenge was to build up trust, right? We had to explain them the business and opportunities, we had to negotiate about minimum guarantees, because back then we also didn't know if this is work. And big companies they prefer, in many cases, not to be the first Yes, but they want to have proven business cases. And so it was really hard for us to sign the first partners. And after that, it got easier, of course, but the first one there were really challenging. And it took us up to two years for some contracts. Wow. Yeah, it was a really long, long, long, long world. Today, still challenging are often the approval process, processes of different brands. And also the reporting. Because all the companies they have different requirements, which are often cases completely opposite. And each time you have to try to fulfill them and to get all the numbers in place and so on.

Tony Morelan 23:57

Yeah. There's got to be a lot of trust on both sides to actually come to the agreement.

Tan Nguyen 24:04

But yeah, it's still really nice to be able to team up with this, this big companies. And yeah, this is also something which makes us really proud. So tell me what is the workflow when butterfly effect is designing and publishing a theme, we start by collecting ideas, then we make the first sketches then we select the best ones for production. And after production, we do an extensive QA session, design wise and also regarding the technical part, we have to check if our colors are visible and all different combinations. There are some overlays and stuff like that. And if everything passes, we send them to our partners if needed. If it's granted him we have to do this. And if we get the approval we upload them into the store and this is basically Be how it works. How long would you say that process takes typically, it also depends from partner to partner, if you are working alone, you can do this. And if you are experienced with all the tools, and the store, I think you can create several themes a day, even if you are experienced. And you know how the design tool works, you can do this, if you do high quality themes might take you two weeks for one, if you need to wait for the approval, it can take up to four weeks. Yeah. So a topic that a lot of developers discuss is the strategy around free themes actually offering your content for free, what is butterfly-effected strategy when it comes to offering free themes, we offer free themes. And we have different reasons for this right? First, it's, of course, a really good marketing tool, which helps a lot to attract visitors and customers to your profile, and to gives you exposure, which also then generates more downloads. So it's a really cool tool. And that's, that's good to do this POV weekly, we also offer free themes. And when we do this, we do it randomly and we can't cover all topics. And then we do not expect the clip licitly pick up themes with smaller sets, right? So you can even from time to time download our top sellers for free. Really, yeah, we do this. And we also offer them in regions where people can't afford to spend too much money on mobile content for this, which means we also offer them at a cheaper price or even for free from time to time.

Tony Morelan 26:49

Yeah, I was actually interviewing another themes designer for the podcast recently. And she said the same thing that, you know, depending on the region, she will often offer her designs for free for countries that typically cannot afford to spend much on their on their mobile devices.

Tan Nguyen 27:09

Yeah, exactly. It's a little giving back. Right. And also, I think it's a good long-term strategy, because the economic situation of this countries will improve, and then they will be able to spend money later on. So it's a good way I think, to quote customers in a way.

Tony Morelan 27:33

So you know, this past year has been very difficult for, you know, the entire world having to deal with COVID-19 in the pandemic, can you tell me how that has impacted butterfly-effected,

Tan Nguyen 27:45

we were in a lucky position where we already did a lot of remote work. So we were quite experienced in this field, we nearly now switched completely to remote work and home offices. And we were able to quickly adapt to this new condition. And then this helped us a lot so that the switch was not that difficult for us. And I think in this this field, we are better off than many other companies Sure, who are facing quite more challenging times at the moment.

Tony Morelan 28:17

Yeah. Would you say that? Has butterfly-effected seen any impact in their downloads during this past year in the pandemic? Is this something that do you think has negatively affected people's ability to purchase the Android? Have you actually seen an uptick where it's actually you've in a way have benefited a bit?

Tan Nguyen 28:37

Yeah, I think at the beginning when the whole thing started, we indeed saw a decline. What especially during the beginning of the first lockdowns, yes, there were indeed some declines and downloads and sales. But luckily as people are at home and are not able to go outside so much they are using their smartphones more often. Right? Yes. And this of course, helps us and we saw the later stages or different months did upticks and, and assess increases. And we are really lucky to be on this. This digital business and having Samsung as a partner help us tremendously to going through this whole pandemic, and a really good way for us. So we really asset we are happy and grateful that we aren't affected as much as other businesses. Yeah,

Tony Morelan 29:40

it's very true. I've actually heard from many developers about their appreciation for this opportunity because it has been a business that they've been able to continue to, to run during the pandemic. Exactly. So what is in the future for butterfly-effected?

Tan Nguyen 29:58

Yeah, we want to continue our journey. We want to further improve the quality of our products, satisfy the needs of the customers, and continue our mission to provide people with wonderful designs, which, which hopefully, patents that day and make interactions with the phones more fun. And this is what we continued to do.

Tony Morelan 30:21

Nice, nice. Can you tell me? Are there any other designers that you look at it and get inspiration from or at least admire?

Tan Nguyen 30:29

Oh, yeah, there, there are many, many talented designers within the store and the whole ecosystem. And it's really hard for me to name one now. But there are so many, many great designers and companies out there. And we actually don't see them as, as rivals or competition. We are all in the same boat. And it's more like a family and community, right? We share all the same mission to provide people with wonderful designs, and we all want to make the customers happy. Yeah,

Tony Morelan 31:04

so a lot of other developers have the same thought. And that is they want to see the Galaxy Store grow with all sorts of great content, because whether it's from one developer or another, when there is such nice, you know, content out there, more users come to the store to shop and browse and purchase. So it makes it a thriving community when there is lots of success.

Tan Nguyen 31:27

Yes, exactly. And as you know, people who purchase the themes, they do it on a regular basis, right? It's not a thing, which you do one time and then stop. So the more quality content is out, the more content we all can sell. Exactly. So it's really nice to have this community. And I said, Yeah, we all want to do the same day slice.

Tony Morelan 31:51

So I have one more question for you. And that is what do you do for fun? When you're not working deals to license big brands?

Tan Nguyen 32:01

I'm a typical nerd. Like, like reading books. I like playing games. I'm still gaming. That's great. And yeah, I also try to stay fit by doing some sports. Which is isn't easy all the time to motivate yourself. But yeah, I'm going to click on that. There’re two funny books, movies games.

Tony Morelan 32:29

Well, hey, Tan, thank you very much for being on the podcast. Absolutely. appreciate you taking the time.

Tan Nguyen 32:35

Thank you for having me, Tony. And thank you for all the opportunities you're giving to us. It's really great to be part of your ecosystem and the relationship we have with you guys. It's really amazing. Thank you very much.

Closing 32:52

Looking to start creating for Samsung, download the latest tools to code your next app, or get software for designing apps without coding at all. Sell your apps to the world on the Samsung Galaxy Store. Check out developer today and start your journey with Samsung.

Tony Morelan 33:08

The POW! podcast is brought to you by the Samsung Developer Program and produced by Tony Morelan.