With the evolution of social media, fans and followers are able to connect with their favorite celebrities and on a much higher frequency, forging a stronger bond as compared to traditional media channels. Additionally, COVID-19 lockdowns reinforced the importance of connecting digitally and accelerated the adoption of social media in the world. As such, Sendjoy is positioning itself to capitalize on the estimated US$31 Billion booming digital media market in Southeast Asia.
In this month of Startup Conversations, we caught up with Co-Founder and CEO of Sendjoy, Liang Chun. He shared with us how Sendjoy acquired its first few customers, the challenges he faced as a non-technical founder building a tech platform, and what he looks for in an investor other than the cheque size.
Congratulations on the recent successful funding round! Tell us about Sendjoy, what was the founding moment for both of you? (Side note: The company name “Sendjoy”, just puts a big smile on my face!)
Liang Chun: Thank you! The idea for Sendjoy came to us in April last year, when it became clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom in KL. I wanted to send something fun to surprise her, letting her know I’d be fine in Singapore. I thought of asking her favorite Singapore TV actress to record a personalized video message on my behalf but found the process of reaching out confusing and uncomfortable. That’s when Ser En and I, having come from the entertainment industry, noticed a lack of a user-friendly way for everyday consumers in Asia to access and engage creators and celebrities. Hence, Sendjoy was born!
Liang Chun, you previously founded an agritech startup, and together with Ser En, both of you worked in media giant mm2 Entertainment. How have your previous careers and experiences helped you in overcoming obstacles in the founding Sendjoy?
Liang Chun: Having worked together in the entertainment industry, Ser En and I have a better understanding of each other and the domain Sendjoy operates in. That gave us the confidence to innovate on industry practices that might go against the status quo. To kickstart the marketplace, we tapped into our network to onboard the first Sendjoyers. It wasn’t a smooth sail, but our reputation lent weight to our promise to them, that Sendjoy is the safest way for them to monetize their fame and talent in the consumer market. Through them, we marketed the core idea of Sendjoy- sending personalized video messages to loved ones- to their fans and followers, who became our first customers.
Very often, start-ups have a reputation of hustling 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. What are your views on this and what kind of company culture do you intend to instill in your team as Sendjoy expands?
Liang Chun: While we believe in hard work, we are firm believers of a holistic approach to work. The biggest risk we, as founders, can pose to the company we’re building is the deterioration of our health, which will lead to subpar decision-making. Quality rest is as important as quality work. If you can’t take good care of yourself and attend to your family and friends, we don’t think you’ll be able to perform wholeheartedly at work as well. There will be distractions and unhealthy expectations of what work means to your self-worth. Since Sendjoy is a company whose mission is to make people feel special, we want our team to embody that, by being present in the lives of their loved ones.
With the rise of social media, more people have been connecting virtually and arguably less physically. Do you think social media will reduce physical human interactions moving forward, especially with our experience in COVID-19 where most things can be done virtually?
Liang Chun: Speaking of the rise of social media, I now cherish every video call I have with my grandmother, who, just 5 years ago, didn’t even have the motivation to learn how to pick up a call on a smartphone. What COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have shown us is, quality work can also be done virtually via tools like Zoom and Slack. That way, we can cut down on commute time, so our time is spent with our loved ones. That’s one example of the ability to connect virtually granting us the capacity to be physically present. I believe our current circumstances have shown us that social media is a tool we can use to stay connected when the distance is an unfortunate reality that we have to live with.
Other than capital injection, what else did you look for in an investor before taking a cheque? Since this is Sendjoy’s first fundraise, what were some challenges both of you faced?
Liang Chun: We looked for a ‘cultural fit’ with our investors when we did our fundraising. We wanted to know why they’d be interested in Sendjoy, and how they could see themselves contributing to Sendjoy’s mission. As 2 non-technical founders, we faced the challenge of convincing investors that we would be able to build a tech product that changes the way the entertainment industry functions. Though, the fact that we had an MVP, Sendjoyers, and customers helped a lot. This is what I would tell founders who are non-technical but wish to start a tech startup- Build something, let someone use it, and make sure they love it before you even start thinking about fundraising. The tech startup landscape is highly competitive, and nothing dissipates investor doubt more than a working product, even if it’s just the first version.
How was the experience like to pitch and raise funds through AngelCentral?
Liang Chun: AngelCentral has been extremely efficient in getting us connected with a group of vetted angels in Singapore. The pitch event was done online, and we received some good questions about our business model, which got us thinking a lot about designing the business for the long term. All in all, we had a very positive experience with AngelCentral.
Looking forward, where do you see Sendjoy in the next 2 – 3 years time?
Liang Chun: In the next 2-3 years, we want Sendjoy to be synonymous with the behavior of sending personalized video greetings and surprises in several Asian cities. We want it easier for our customers to make the people in their lives feel extra special, with the help of our Sendjoyers, who offer their talents and fame and are compensated for their services.
SENDJOY (www.sendjoynow.com) is a platform where everybody can book personalized video messages from popular celebrities and creators to surprise their loved ones. Sendjoyers include musicians, actors, comedians, illustrators, and many more. Their unified mission is to send joy through words of encouragement for a milestone in life, or a song to get through tough times. Sendjoy’s goal is to make people feel special through personalized entertainment; to remind people that it’s important to say “I care about you” out loud to your loved ones. Sendjoy is currently incubated at IMDA PIXEL and is a portfolio company of Quest Ventures.
For more information, please visit www.sendjoynow.com.”