Tokyo-based messaging application, Line, has reached a $15 billion value by getting smartphone users to pay for teddy bears, wicked witches, and other cute icons.

Potential IPO

smartphone users

Image by Intel Free Press

The messaging app has grown to over 370 million subscribers since it was introduced in 2011.

After Facebook announced its plans to buy rival app WhatsApp, Line is drawing interest too.

Japanese mobile-phone carrier SoftBank Corp aims to buy a share in the company, said sources familiar with the matter.

Rising smartphone market

The growth in the mobile arena has been due in large part to the increasing popularity of smartphones.

“We’ve been talking about the monetization ability of mobile phones for 10 years, and it’s actually happening now,” said BDA China chairman Duncan Clark, who advises technology companies, in a statement. “Look around you, look at any dinner table, who’s not looking at their phones? It’s completely transformed social interaction.”