Disruptr: Jason Eng, CEO and Founder of KOLs.ASIA
We are a full service influencer marketing agency that’s powered by big data technologies, to help marketers & brands drive real business results. In short, we want to be an agency that’s a true marketing engine – one has the consumer’s interests in mind, on behalf of our clients. And to do that with data-backed analytics.
What inspired him?
- Having been both the client and media owner, I’ve always observed there are a lot of inefficiencies in the advertising industry, where marketing value is ‘claimed’ by media owners, blindly accepted by brands, and those ‘metrics’ then make up reports that may look good to management but do not actually drive business results.
- It was in 2014 when we wanted to promote our concert, we had to ensure ticket sales, and so the marketing had to work. Instead of relying on media coverage via partnerships with media owners (which are really just a way to add ‘media value’ and sell to sponsors), we engaged a group of Facebook KOLs (yes when Facebook still had tremendous organic reach), worked out an awareness + affiliate campaign, and our ticket sales were over 90% despite it being our first concert attempt.
- It was a real epiphany as I extrapolated how this would play out long term into the future and realised this was the game-changer in the advertising world. Influencer marketing, or word-of-mouth marketing, has always existed and has always been the most effective form of marketing.
- The existence of social media platforms simply allowed it to now be executed at scale and blazing speed. Now marketers can quickly execute objectively driven strategies at the extremely low cost of entry, contributing to business results instead of eyeball claims, or clickbait generated traffic, with a complete disregard to the quality of those audiences. More importantly, influencer marketing solves the problem of an interruptive advertising model.
- It’s our default behaviour that we don’t want to see ads, whether it is just that 5 secs of your time, or that 0.5 sec in your feed you have to scroll through. It’s frustrating because it’s stealing time away from you. And so I knew that this would be a future-proof business.
- At the same time, this format allowed a platform to be created where we can continuously provide opportunities to creative talents (KOLs / content creators), and play a role in contributing to the creative industry, which has always been my long term ambition.
What has the journey been like?
- The journey has been extremely rewarding. Seeing young talents coming into the team as fresh grads and rapidly rising to leadership roles in the company. Constantly educating internal teammates and clients on the rising need for better marketing strategies and approaches in this rapidly evolving web2 (social media) landscape, and learning as the company grows and evolves into different stages.
- Incorporating tech into marketing, and that into the creative field. And we’re really just starting out. There’s a whole lot more in our pipeline that we’re planning for in the coming 5, 10 even 20 years. We are building a company to last at least a 100 years and beyond. So in that context we’re only at our infancy stage.
Biggest achievement and what is one regret that you wish you had or had not done?
- I’d like to think that our biggest achievement has yet to come. And I honestly do not have any regrets. I’m appreciative of all the past failures I’ve experienced.
- I think I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, for better or worst. I think the process of it all is super important, all the ups and downs the comes with the journey creates the route you’ll take subsequently.
Where do you see yourself in the next 1 year?
- We’re looking at expanding across the SEA region. The region is fast developing with a lot of potential. At the same time we’re working on more tech-based solutions that will help us in scaling our business across the region.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
- In our pipeline are other countries in East Asia. Hopefully in 5 years time, we’d be a platform with a large enough span across Asia that’ll position us as one of the largest influencer / creator platform in Asia.
- To be able to help brands do cross-country marketing with ease. I’d like for us to also be in a position to provide useful / valuable marketing information at no cost to business / marketers in need, or just people who are interested in the field. There are also other strategic plans in our 5 year roadmap that we’re really excited about but unfortunately you’ll just have to wait to find out.
What keeps you going to keep running the business?
- It’s genuinely my passion. I enjoy it, every moment of it, with all the challenges and ups and downs that goes with it. I’ve been asked several times before on my exit strategy to the business and my answer has always been – I have no exit plan. VCs and investors can come and we can work out an exit plan for them but I’m staying for good! I’m doing this until the day I can no longer physically run it. Im not pursuing an end goal to this, but I’m enjoying the process of running and operating the business.
- I’m always telling people around me how lucky and grateful I am to be doing what I’m passionate about, what I love! So I’ve sort of navigated the business to incorporate all the things I’m interested in too – marketing, creative, tech. On top of that, in order to make it last a lifetime, the business needs to be future-proof, and more importantly in the big big macro, bring genuine value to people, the communities we live, and society as a whole, in order to be sustainable. And so that’s what we’re doing in the macro – an ambition to be a sustainable force that supports and empowers creative talents.
What is one local startup you would like to work together with and why?
- To be honest nothing comes to mind at the moment. I’ve not spent a lot of time reading / paying attention to other businesses around that much so I don’t have a good answer to this. It may sound ignorant but I’ve really just been focusing rather narrowly on our lane.
Who is one founder (local or international) that you look up to?
- Definitely Elon Musk. I’ve been following him since his early days at Tesla and SpaceX, when everyone thought he’s just going to blow all his PayPal fortunes on these daunting and extremely risky ventures. It’s just amazing what he’s achieved. How he’s innovated and broke free from the status quo. And his vision on what and how his businesses can contribute to human beings, not to mention his relentless work ethic.
Why should investors invest in KOLS.Asia?
- We’re building something for the creative industry in the macro long term context. While doing so we try to ensure we don’t over leverage, and maintain a good financial balance. We’re proud to share that while we’re expanding, we’ve done so while remaining profitable and been growing our PAT YoY.
- And we will continue to operate with that balance as we continue our fund raising efforts to accelerate our expansion plans. More importantly we hope we meet partners that share the same values we have – altruism, passion, empathy, growth, integrity. These would be the pillars of foundation for the company to sustain, and grow beyond a 100 years.