HK's Builds Ad-Industry Network

Hong Kong-based is a business-to-business marketplace tailored for the advertising and marketing industry. According to Jennifer Ma, chief executive officer of, the company was set up in November last year, and was launched in February after executives spent two months building up its business model.

"There's (no similar business) model in Hong Kong (to ours), therefore, we have to do a lot of research to verify our theories, and to learn from similar, established companies in U.S.," Ma said. "(Before we launched our business), we did some surveys on how common Internet usage is in this industry, and what kind of services can help them.' When the company was launched, most of its effort was spent in direct marketing and telephone marketing, Ma said. The target was mainly advertising and marketing companies, which ranges from printing business cards to filming TV advertisements.

The business can be divided into three phases, said Ma. The first phase includes the marketplace itself, with over 700 companies that have already signed up into the network to provide company profiles, portfolios and client lists. Clients include agencies, design houses, premium suppliers, multimedia companies, public relations companies, event organizers, and TV production and post-production companies.

"The first phase (of our business plan) is to create a marketplace for market players to exchange ideas, and to provide them with the most relevant and up-to-date resources and information," Ma said.

"By the second phase, we'll provide value-added services to marketers, advertisers and suppliers ... so as to enhance their workflow," Ma continued.

"The second phase is to help them with communications and collaborations between companies with our applications." The third phase is to launch online media transactions.

"We've applications on media planning in our second phase. (When we move into the third phase), we'll add the transaction element to make online transaction possible," Ma said.

Besides industry directories and portfolio hosting, also provides sponsorship programs for companies to attract buyers. This includes banner ads, editorials, and online interactive promotional tools, said Ma.

The company has also launched a 'Service-on-Demand' service.

"Clients can fill out a simple form (on our Web site), then we'll send (the information) to five to 10 different companies," Ma explained. "Interested parties will get back to the clients with quotes based on their given criteria. They can then identify a suitable supplier to help them with their projects." Since the launch of the quotation service, there have been a couple of postings every day asking for quotes, said Ma.

In addition to the 700 companies in the network, currently has over 6,000 subscribers, according to Ma, adding that they are mainly suppliers of advertising and marketing services.

"This is because our marketing effort has been made mainly on the supplier side," Ma explained.

"Information (on these companies is) stored in our database. Once they've signed up, they're given a login ID and password," Ma said, adding that most of the users are very active. "They visit (the Web site) frequently to update their company information, or upload their portfolio." The Web site also provides community features, such as interviews, chat rooms, forums, and a poll, which are updated daily.

"The interviews are mainly with renowned people in the (advertising and marketing) industry," said Ma, adding that there are a couple of hundred postings in the chat rooms every day.

According to Ma, is still undergoing in its first phase of development. Investors have currently invested $HK5 million ($US641,000) in the company, which includes a "seed funding" round and an "angel funding" round.

"Our seed funding involves three parties, our chief operating officer Stella Cheung, a couple of founders at Eureka Digital, and myself," said Ma, adding that Eureka Digital has been around in Hong Kong for over 5 years, providing multimedia consulting services.

"In the end of January, we gathered our angel round funding, with (a total of) 15 investors. They're all in the marketing and advertising industry, providing us with advice and strategies to help the company grow and develop," Ma continued.

"(Eureka Digital) helped us to produce the prototype. They provide us with technical support and database management," Ma said. "After the angel round funding, we hired more staff and the maintenance (of the Web site) was transferred back to" The business model can also be divided into three different areas where the revenue of the company comes from, said Ma. The first one is advertising and sponsorship. The second one is subscription, where clients using applications will have to pay a monthly subscription fee.

"When we move into the third phase, we'll have revenue from those transactions made online," Ma said.

The company currently has 10 staff, according to Ma. By the end of 2000, it is expecting to expand to 25 staff.

Ma believes that the value the business model provides is cross-regional networking, because the marketing and advertising market in Hong Kong is not very big.

"Hong Kong will be a testing place only. Everybody in the industry knows one another. Therefore, it's quite established (in Hong Kong) already," Ma explained. "But if we're able to expand our business to the region, it might help (the market players) to save time, effort and money."The company is going to launch the second phase by the end of August, and is planning to launch its service in Taiwan and Singapore by the end of this year, said Ma. It will move into the China market by early next year.

"Internet infrastructure in China is still very slow. A lot of companies are still using dial-up modems, while we require a lot of heavy graphics, or multimedia contents. Therefore, we'll wait until the (Internet) infrastructure is more mature before we go into the China market," explained Ma.

The company is now looking for a first round of funding focusing on venture capitalists, and has also proposed setting up partnerships with some listed companies, according to Ma.

"Our financial situation is very healthy at the moment. Therefore, we're not in a hurry to find funding. We hope to identify a good strategic partner before we make any decision," said Ma.

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