|Lê Hồng Thảo Quyên, CEO of ViralWorks. File Photo|
Shark Tank, a TV reality show for start-ups, had a pleasant shock for viewers last month in the form of Lê Hồng Thảo Quyên, CEO of ViralWorks. Quyên, 26, is one of the rare start-up entrepreneurs in the show (in its second season now) to receive investment offers from all five investors-judges, the eponymous “sharks”. She managed to raise six times the amount she had hoped for.
Quyên impressed with her smarts and confidence. Thu Ngân asked her about the show and more.
Inner Sanctum: How do you feel after managing to raise US$300,000, six times the amount you had wanted?
Completely surprised! I thought only one or two sharks would make an offer, but the outcome was so much better than expected. More importantly, when looking into the eyes of the sharks and seeing their excitement, I felt really happy.
For me, Shark Dũng’s generous offer, which is the biggest motivator for ViralWorks, indicates his confidence in the project. In addition to capital, [he] will also invest a lot of effort and time and deploy his business network to monitor and develop the project.
Inner Sanctum: Why do you think your project was so attractive to the judges? What makes your company very attractive?
It was a great honour for my company to get the attention of the investors right from the concept stage. But just good luck is not enough. ViralWorks is an attractive project for three main factors.
The first one is market potential. Việt Nam is among the countries with the largest number of social network users. With more than 55 million users and the rapid growth in numbers, Việt Nam enjoys a pool of young, dynamic, open, and educated internet users. Internet users in the country spend about seven hours a day using the internet, including three hours for social media like Facebook, YouTube, Zalo ... With such figures, Việt Nam is a highly promising market for digital advertising, especially for brands targeting young generation.
Secondly, the use of economy-sharing technology to quickly resolve daily matters that are traditionally difficult, such as Grab, Uber, Airbnb, is a successful model world-wide. Our company will also work towards rapid development, applying technologies that make the working process between influencers and brands more transparent, convenient and effective.
The third factor is certainly the ViralWorks team, whose members bring potential to this project. I can see, following their experience of working for four years with influencers, the development of their creativity in content as well as their professionalism. This challenges the prejudice against influencers, which is that their way of working depends on their emotions and not reason. With the influencer network built over four years and insights into social media, I believe that influencer marketing is not just promising but will become a new area of digital marketing.
Inner Sanctum: Why and when did you start your own business and how did the idea of ViralWorks come to you?
The biggest motivation for me to start the company was seeing the trend of influencer marketing, especially when the market was witnessing the rapid growth of social media, the internet explosion, and investment in digital marketing in Việt Nam. Not two years ago and not two years from now, but right now, 2018, is the right time to start a company in the field of influencer marketing.
In addition, after having developed YouTube’s largest MCN in Việt Nam, METUB Network, over four years, my personal and professional development, industry relationships and maturity in the industry have been recognised. It is time to challenge myself with a fresh area, but the opportunity to develop myself is certainly there.
Inner Sanctum: You plan to achieve a market share of 60 per cent in the next two years and then enter foreign markets. How confident are you of achieving this goal and what do you plan to do for it?
Currently the company is developing and finalising the product, but has acquired contracts from and the interest of some large brands. In our point of view, the project’s attraction lies in its ability to rapidly grow and scale up. Once the platform operates and proves to be efficient, I am confident this number is possible.
Inner Sanctum: How will the sharks’ investments be used?
After the show, the company received two investments, one of which is US$300,000 for product development and long-term co-operation with top influencers in various fields; the second investment, from Dũng Nguyễn, is in business relationships. We will work together to catch the opportunity to attract more investors and expand business relationships.
Inner Sanctum: Watching you on TV, it was easy to see you were a very confident person, and this confidence possibly helped you raise funds from the sharks. How did you develop this confidence and how do you suggest other Vietnamese youngsters can?
Preparation is my greatest secret in remaining confident under all circumstances. For Shark Tank, it is not just about making presentations or dressing up and making up. The most important preparation is the long-term process of accumulating experience and knowledge and, especially, finding out who I will meet and in what situation. It took more than a week to watch and record every single question sharks asked start-ups last season, categorise them and answer them until I felt completely confident.
As for advice, understanding my self-worth and the respect of others are what drive my actions. Regardless of who you are facing and what your strengths are, just show it. On the other hand, if there is something you do not know, frankly admit it and learn from others.
Inner Sanctum: What do you think Vietnamese start-ups should do to achieve success?
That is what our team is considering every day. What should be done for ViralWorks to be successful soon and benefit everyone.
I feel Vietnamese start-ups have great chance to succeed, and it is easy to see that the start-up community has the opportunity to meet up and support each other. The interest shown by many professional investors in and outside Việt Nam brings not only investment, but also, more importantly, knowledge, experience and opportunities to take the start-up beyond Việt Nam’s borders. VNS