[caption id="attachment_191488" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Irish Ong, co-founder and CEO of AlphaConcepts[/caption] In today's world of brand advertising, much of it happens online — via social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This has led to an explosion of a new breed of influencers (also known as brand spokespersons) who may not be celebrities in the traditional sense (actors, musicians, models), but are able to command a large following on their social media channels due to a variety of reasons: good looks/body, ability to generate viral content, or others. AlphaConcepts, a HK-based influencer marketplace is riding this wave by helping brands connect with suitable influencers more easily as well as help them optimise their advertising spend. The startup was founded by Irish Ong, a professional model with about 10 years of experience in the modelling industry. This long exposure to the industry allowed her to pinpoint some of the shortcomings of its practices, mainly the inefficiencies of hiring and using influencers. Founded nine months ago, AlphaConcepts has since partnered with 1,160 influencers and 50 brands. It recently raised a US$200,000 seed round from four angel investors in Hong Kong and will use it to ramp up product development and expand its market presence. In an email correspondence with e27, Ong talked more about the genesis of the startup, the specific pain points it wants to tackle, and more. Here is the edited excerpt:
Can you tell me more about your background?I've started my career in modelling at the age of 14, and have been in the fashion, digital media, and TV industry in Asia Pacific working with major brands and walking fashion week runways. In 2014, I represented my country, The Philippines, in DIVA TV's reality show "SupermodelMe Sirens" which was aired across Asia.
What inspired you to form AlphaConcepts?In the modelling industry, photo shoots are created one by one for advertising purposes. Content production requires the whole team of creatives, photographers, models to do one great shot, meaning processes are slow to publish ad campaigns in magazines and newspapers. While these channels worked well before the digital age, I've always found it slow and unsure whether the contents created are the credible enough to engage with the brands' consumers. As I tried to discover ways to innovate marketing, Asia's startup ecosystems continue to boom, and the Jessica Alba's Honest Company dream becomes more probable than before. I started to connect with business owners, like-minded talents, and adventurers in the startup community.
What are the pain points AlphaConcepts seeks to tackle?For brands: the problem is similar to what Uber, Airbnb, Deliveroo are trying to solve. Currently, there are no efficient ways to connect influencers to brands. This market is highly fragmented. Companies have tried to hire influencer managers to focus on searching, managing, and organizing influencers only. These managers will also negotiate fees of influencers individually, explain the campaigns manually, and find new influencers after every single campaign. This is extremely time-consuming, ineffective and inefficient. Also Read: AI is set to kill digital marketing, thus marketers need to evolve AlphaConcepts is effective in creating and distributing quality contents in quantity by leveraging digital influencers vs. traditional celebrity. To illustrate: imagine if we ask a famous celebrity who has 1 million followers to post one photo. The same amount of money paid to the celebrity can allow AlphaConcepts to attract:
- 50 influencers with 20k follower each of your choice (i.e. same number of follower base as the famous celebrity).
- 50 better crafted, quality contents from 50 minds.
- These 50 photos can be posted on say 50 days, instead of one photo posted on one day.
Tell me more about the mechanisms of the platform. How does it help advertisers or other companies engage with influencers?AlphaConcepts is a marketplace that connects brands with influencers.
- In the span of few minutes, marketers can create a campaign giving us information about their products, and what they want to see in the photos and hashtags.
- Influencers then see the offers and apply for the campaign through their mobile app.
- Influencers will then get the product and submit their photos/videos to us.
- Once approved, influencers publish the contents and earn.