How to start a business with little investment in the data era

February 18, 2019 12:36
Spread-it and Cloudbreakr leverage the popularity of social media platforms to grow their businesses. Photo: Spread-it/ Cloudbreakr/Facebook

Hong Kong rents are the highest in the world, and this has discouraged many young people from starting their own businesses.

But thanks to big data and artificial intelligence, it's now possible for entrepreneurs to make a fortune with little upfront investment by putting these technologies into real-life applications.

Two young entrepreneurs have shared their success stories with me.

Winnie, born in the 1990s, started her company called Spread-it with friends in 2016. The company faced a lot of difficulties in the beginning but it soon found a way to leverage the popularity of Instagram.

As the photo- and video-sharing platform became hot among students, a group of college influencers emerged. While they may not be comparable to real KOLs, or key opinion leaders, they are able to exert a certain degree of influence, especially over their peers.

Winnie decided to transform the company into a platform-matching brands with these social network stars, who can generate buzz on Instagram by posting photos and videos related to various brands.

Spread-it managed to break even in two to three years, counting multinational corporations like Microsoft and Uniqlo as its clients.

Brands used to spend more than half of their marketing budget on traditional promotion channels such as TV commercials and advertising light boxes.

But this practice has become less and less effective as consumers shift to new platforms. Today, many brands are willing to set aside part of their budget to explore new marketing channels. Winnie has successfully grasped this opportunity.

Cloudbreakr is another example. This platform tracks over 10,000 influencers across the Asia-Pacific using pre-defined search tags and keywords.

The system can track the follower profile of each influencer. Brands and companies can subscribe to its database on a monthly basis to monitor the effectiveness of their social media marketing campaigns.

Shortly after its establishment, Cloudbreakr has become profitable.

Interestingly, the founders of Cloudbreakr and Spread-it do not have a background in big data, but they managed to come up with ideas to use data technology in a commercially viable way.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 15

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Information Technology Federation Chairman