Cyworld USA to go mobile next year

We hadn’t talked to the Cyworld US team in awhile, so we stopped by their San Francisco offices this week to play catch up. The South Korean social network that launched in the U.S. last August, told us they are planning on launching a mobile application for the U.S. market in the first quarter of 2008.

Cyworld is still working out the details, but the application will likely end up as an app for one of the mainstream U.S. carriers. Considering their parent company SK Telecom already has a relationship with Sprint (via Helio) and T-Mobile USA’s parent company in Germany, those two carriers are a good bet for a possible U.S. rollout.

And while the mobile app is awhile away, the company seems to be finally gathering a little traction in the US. At the end of April 2007, Cyworld had a little over one million unique visitors a month, according to comScore. The company also told us it currently has 250,000 members and is growing at about 22% per month.

A mobile component could be an important way to bring in revenue for the 10-month old US site, given it will likely have a per month subscription fee. In Korea, Cyworld mobile has brought in over 2.5 million users, who make up the bulk of the country’s mobile to web photo uploads according to this Business 2.0 story.

Cyworld USA Vice President of Marketing and Sales Michael Streefland says the company wanted to launch a U.S. mobile component earlier, but the U.S. mobile market has moved slower than they had expected. “We’ve been dragging our feet on this, because we want to get it right. We commissioned a research report to figure out what Cyworld Mobile would be in the U.S., and we’re still figuring that out.”

While Streefland says they are still working out the details of the mobile app, the company is interested in a transactional, commerce-based element, as well as media services. More than just checking up on their rooms, says Streefland.

Cyworld’s mobile foray into the U.S. will probably follow the same lines as its web play — an interesting move that will be a learning experience for the Korean parent company, but likely not a wild success any time soon. The good news for Cyworld USA is that SK Telecom has a big budget to work on getting the experience right.