As more creators leave their normal day jobs to pursue their passion full time, they are finding they have to rely on a variety of sources for their income. These usually include online advertisements, subscription packages and brand endorsements. Many creators also receive donations from their fans as a show of support and gratitude.
Unlike someone working in a traditional full-time job, a stable and reliable income is a luxury that full-time creators do not have. Given their inconsistent income, donating a few dollars can go a long way towards helping them focus on honing their craft and producing the more of the same content which their fans enjoy.
A few crowdfunding platforms have emerged to help creators pursue their art, gain support from their fans and earn money from content which they pour their hearts into creating.
In our startup story today, we chat with Oh Thongsrinoon, the CEO and founder of one such platform – Superfanz. Oh shares his inspiration for building Superfanz and how it can support Asian creators. He paints a vivid picture of the journey of Superfanz and offers advice for startups looking to secure funding.
INSPIRATION BEHIND SUPERFANZ
As with any startup, Superfanz began as the solution to a problem and an attempt to fill a gap in the market. Oh explains, “During my time in Vietnam as CEO for Asia’s largest Multi-Channel Network, I collected data across eight countries in Asia (excluding Korea, China and Japan) and discovered that 90% of the YouTubers made on average $65 per month from their YouTube channel.”
The results of this research offered insight into the unique business landscape that creators in Asia inhabit. Oh continues, “around the same time, one of my colleagues quit his job and started earning his income entirely from Patreon. He was the perfect definition of a long-tail creator, with only 13,000 followers on social media.”
This discovery sparked Oh’s curiosity and further research led him to the key missing ingredients in crowdfunding platforms available to Asian creators at the time. He realized that platforms like Patreon were lacking in discovery tools, effective social media functions, local language, local support and local payments. He was convinced that Patreon’s fan donation platform model could also succeed in Asia as it had in Western countries, with some modifications to better serve Asian creators.
THE TARGET MARKET
Asian creators often turn to Patreon and Tipeee, both Western platforms, because there is no local alternative. Oh exclaims, “I tried to look for an equivalent version of Patreon in Asia and, shockingly, there was none!”
Superfanz aims to offer better funding support to these creators by building the missing ingredients Oh identified into the platform’s framework.
SUPERFANZ VS THE COMPETITION
It may not be the only fan donation platform available to Asian creators, but it proposes a unique combination of solutions specifically customized for Asian creators.
For this target audience, the unique features that help Superfanz stand out from its competitors include: 1) A discovery tool, 2) Better social media functions, 3) Better integration with existing platforms like Instagram, YouTube and (soon) TikTok, 4) Localized language, 5) Localized support, and 6) Local payments.
INCREASING INCOME AND BUILDING A LOYAL FANBASE
The traditional concept of fan donation may not work as well in Asia as it does in the West, but Superfanz has adapted this model to meet the needs of their target market.
“As the name implies, fans will learn that Superfanz is where they can get the coolest and most exclusive perks from their idols,” Oh explains. “Imagine enjoying an exclusive karaoke session with your favourite singers, playing games with your favourite game streamer or attending a hip-hop dance lesson with your favourite choreographer.” At Superfanz, you can turn all these once-in-a-lifetime experiences into reality, and it’s as easy as signing up to support your favourite creators.
As a creator, once you create an account on Superfanz, you can pick freely from three monetization functions to apply to your fans: 1) VIP fan club membership, 2) Social commerce and 3) Event ticketing (such as fan meeting, private album release, concerts etc.). In the next phase, Superfanz plans to add crowdfunding and advertising to this list of functions.
SUPERFANZ AS A SOLUTION FOR INFLUENCERS OF ALL KINDS
Superfanz offers a one-size-fits-all solution to creators because it appeals to creators with fan bases of all sizes – from those with few online followers to those with 1 million followers or more.
“Platforms like Facebook and YouTube depend almost entirely on advertising. This is counterproductive to the goals of creators who are trying to make a living from their passion,” Oh states. “Organic reach on Facebook decreases every year because Facebook wants people to spend more to reach their fans. YouTubers also have a very difficult time maintaining a steady number of views per video regardless of how many subscribers they have.”
This is a common problem among YouTubers with Gold (1,000,000 subscribers) and even Diamond (10,000,000 subscribers) buttons.
“The beauty of Superfanz is that we are an “and” not “or” platform,” Oh elaborates. “We perfectly supplement the creator’s existing social media presence”. Most creators don’t believe Oh when he tells them it is possible to make a living from just 1% of their followers.
“Let me refer back to the colleague I mentioned earlier. He currently has around 135 fans donating, in total, an amount equivalent to his previous salary each month. 135 out of 13,000 followers is almost exactly 1%”
SECURING STARTUP FUNDING
Oh successfully secured funding for Superfanz before its launch, which is an impressive feat for a startup. He had worked with investment and venture capital firms before launching his own business. “That experience gave me unique insight into what a venture capitalist or investor tends to look for. I also over-prepared.” Oh gives his co-founder credit for connecting Superfanz with investors. “The angel and seed round investors who came on board were all connections I made through my co-founder,” he adds.
Funding a startup is one of the hurdles most entrepreneurs face on their way to success. As someone who has been there before, Oh has advice for his fellow founders. “Adopt the Mamba mentality when looking for investors. If you read Kobe’s book (God rest his soul), there’s an interesting chapter where Kobe studied the referee rulebook. He did this so he knew exactly where they stood and what kind of foul they could call. Kobe would know when and how he could tug at his opponent at a certain part of the basketball court without getting calls. Think about it…he’s the only NBA player I know who has ever done this. Kobe did not take his physical gift for granted. He would always try to find ways, sometimes unconventional, to give himself that edge. He was not afraid to put in hard work to over-prepare.”
Recalling his time as a venture capitalist, Oh shares that one of the more common questions. “how do you get your valuation,” is usually used to weed out 80-90% prospects who are not promising. When preparing to meet venture capitalists, it therefore makes sense to over-prepare for this question to be certain you have an impressive answer.
FUTURE OF SUPERFANZ
Oh is optimistic about the future growth. “Since the space that Superfanz sits in is still fairly green, we think the room for growth is tremendous,” he predicts. The target audience is fairly wide – including key opinion leaders, influencers, YouTubers, creatives, photographers, writers, bloggers and educators. There is a promising amount of potential for success if Superfanz can continue meeting the needs of all these creators.
Patreon’s model works effectively for Western creators whose fans can easily use credit cards and PayPal to make payments and for whom English is their first language. It’s also an ideal solution for creators who don’t need additional support in form of social media functions and discovery tools.
For creators in emerging countries (including Latin America) who need more support than Patreon provides, we present Superfanz – a solution for your income needs.