Malaysia-based advertising startup SushiVid has recently participated in the MaGIC Accelerator programme in Malaysia and DBS Hotspot programme in Singapore. The startup was also shortlisted to participate in the DiGi Accelerator but backed out due to time constraint.
At MaGIC Accelerator, SushiVid had people like Hans-Peter Ressel, the CEO of Lazada Malaysia, giving them insight into e-commerce marketing and trends. It appeared that Hans-Peter liked what he saw of the startup, as Lazada became one of SushiVid’s first customers. DBS Hotspot has also introduced SushiVid to several venture capitalists and Singapore-based customers.
In essence, SushiVid is a marketplace that connects brands to talents or social media influencers for marketing campaigns. They’ve currently managed to build a database consisting of more than 350 influencers from the Asian region, with over 60 campaigns made in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.
The ad startup also forges a partnership with NagaDDB, Malaysia’s largest creative advertising agency, as well as Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).
A bad experience in the Malaysian creative industry has led Foong Yuh Wen to found SushiVid, who named the startup after a brainstorming session over a Japanese meal. According to Foong, talents are always being taken advantage of, especially by directors, agencies and more. On some days, there’ll be issues with payment.
“It’s really hard to have a proper career in this line of industry, and I would like to change that. I want to promote a safe and clean environment for talents and influencers to collaborate with brands, to help clear up the cash management portion or their collaborations and to let them take control of their own portfolio,” she said in an email interview with e27.
The dog eat dog world of the creative industry
Foong opened up about the harsh reality of the industry, revealing how she was always at the mercy of her talent manager and director. She used to be a performing artist signed to a talent agency, and was even promised a recording label. Foong was doing well as a budding actress but it was challenging. She constantly waited for casting calls and was always rushed to places to get into a 2-hour shooting queue, and often without much information to prepare beforehand.
“I couldn’t even contribute an idea; I just do as I’m told. I had to let go of my dream (of becoming an actress) because the market was really inefficient and not transparent. I would be told I’m getting paid X-amount but when I ask the other talents, they were getting Y-amount or Z-amount. Sometimes I get paid on the spot, some days I get paid in 90 days. Until today, I still have people owing me money from back then that I haven’t been able to collect. It’s so hard to keep track of my life! It’s truly a dog eat dog world.”
SushiVid was founded in 2015 by Foong, who was the sole founder of the company then. “In 2012, I gave up my pursuit in acting and delved into the world of startups. I worked in various startups in Singapore, and at one point, even interviewed for a job at e27 back in 2012,” she said. Today, SushiVid has three co-founders: Mak Kwan Wuey (CTO), Joelle Choong, and Foong.
“Through the multiple experiences in startups, I got really curious about web development and how it functions, I then took up a 9-week course with Next Academy, to learn how to be a full-stack Ruby developer. All these kinda pieced together, and I finally got the conviction and confidence to start my venture and I can’t think of anything else that I would like to solve other than this,” she added.
Foong went on to lament on how people keep making snarky comments that an actor is bad, without realising the pain he’d been through behind the scene. “For every Tom Cruise out there, there is a million other trying actors. The world is so harsh to a person who wants to pursue this kind of work. When we’re trying, people think we’re wannabes, when we make it, the world watches us on a microscope. We’re under scrutiny.
“I am so blessed that I found my co-founders who share the same passion in this industry and want to change it together. Joelle, my co-founder, is a YouTuber and it definitely helps having her onboard, to have someone who can see it from a YouTuber’s perspective.”
On the adtech scene in Malaysia
In Foong’s view, she thinks the scene needs a radical change, pronto. “It’s highly unregulated. Some beauty video influencer I spoke to told me she charges RM4,000 (US$997) for a video with less than 600 views on average. I was shocked! Most bloggers told me they were paid RM150 (US$37) to RM200 (US$49) per post. And from the brand side, I heard that they’re paying RM5000 (US$1246) per post!”
She questioned where did the money go, and who pocketed the most. It dawned on her that nobody seemed to know what the good price point was, and thought some great influencers were getting ripped off, as well as the brands.
Aside from aiming to protect talents, influencers and brands from being cheated, Foong – who goes back and forth between Malaysia and Singapore on a weekly basis – and her co-founders plan to benefit the ecosystem by providing small businesses and startups an opportunity to get started with influencer marketing at a reasonable price point.
“It is a far cry from what they would pay if they were to engage an agency and it is definitely giving them an avenue to build trust and gain traction in niche markets. Some of the startups that have started using SushiVid are Shopback, Gogobli, Propsocial, The Annoying Brain, and more,” she explained.
The team plans to expand operations in Indonesia and Singapore, with more deals coming from Singapore in the next few months. SushiVid will also add more social media integrations to provide startups and SMEs other options such as SnapChat, LINE or WeChat in the upcoming months.
“On the brand side, we’re definitely putting in a lot more features, and stronger analytics to help them measure their ROI,” Foong concluded.
Image Credit: SushiVid