Recently during a trip to Southeast Asia I had the opportunity to meet Tim Cheng, CEO of FlyingV – the largest rewards based crowdfunding platform across all of Asia. Based in Tapei, Taiwan, FlyingV was launched just over 2 years ago in 2012. Since that time the platform has grown steadily and now has apparently passed well established China crowdfunding site Demohour in platform size. It now stands as the largest rewards based crowdfunding platform in Asia. FlyingV more than tripled in growth from 2012 to 2013 and is now considering expansion opportunities in other Asian countries.
The platform has over 10,000 registered users with about 80% coming from Taiwan but the rest are from other countries in Asia. FlyingV is an all or nothing platform – similar in approach to Kickstarter. The company takes an 8% fee on successful campaigns. Earlier this year, FlyingV stated they were experiencing a success rate of 45% – besting rival Kickstarter’s rate of around 41% of all campaigns. While they are not in the investment crowdfunding space yet – this is an area of keen interest for this leading platform
Tim grew up in the United States and moved to Taiwan. His cross cultural perspective is a valuable asset for the future growth of FlyingV. After chatting with Tim at a crowdfunding event in Asia – I decided to follow up with him via email to ask a few questions about the future of FlyingV.
Crowdfund Insider: Please share your background. You grew up in the United States, you went to University there and then back to Taiwan. Why?
Tim Cheng: I don’t have an awesome story to tell about this. When I made the move, I simply just wanted to live in Asia when I was still in my 20’s. It was both a choice in lifestyle at the time and also I thought would be better for my career in the long run.
Crowdfund Insider: What were you doing prior to launching FlyingV?
Tim Cheng: I spent 4 years at IBM coordinating globalization projects, and another 4 doing business development and consulting for a firm that specializes in the manufacturing industry.
Crowdfund Insider: FlyingV offers both rewards based and equity based – crowdfunding – yes?
Tim Cheng: We are a rewards-based platform, and have the equity side set up, but have not launched due to local regulations. We have been working with the SEC (Taiwan) and OTC since our launch and are still pushing for updated regulations.
We are the biggest reward-based platform in Asia with about 750 projects and $140 million NT funded.
Crowdfund Insider: How are you sourcing your deals for FlyingV?
Tim Cheng: Our goal is to create a healthy environment with no limits on topic to encourage creators to take that first step. We host various events and cooperate with various sectors to promote the concept of crowdfunding. However, our exposure comes mainly from our success stories. Every successful project brings in a new crowd or sector and we build off of every project. The media situation is interesting in Taiwan is because there are just so many news outlets. For example, we have 7/24 hour news channels all in need of content, not to mention online and other print-based media. Our projects have generated more than 700 news stories to date.
Tim Cheng: We have backers from all over the world, but still mostly Taiwan and other Mandarin speaking countries. As far as projects go, most creators are in Taiwan, and we do have a few from overseas. We had to be very careful and selective in our first 2 years with projects from overseas as we are still building trust and a reputation. We are looking to expand into Southeast Asia early 2015 which includes both rewards and equity.
Crowdfund Insider: What is the largest offer to take place on your platform?
Tim Cheng: So far it is “Appendectomy Project”. The project raised $11,984,994 NT (roughly $400,000 USD).
The project was to build a platform which ranks legislators in an attempt to bring more transparency to politics. There are also quite a few projects that raised millions ranging from films to consumer goods.
Crowdfund Insider: You are larger than DemoHour – correct?
Tim Cheng: Yes, and they have pivoted into a hardware device pre-order platform.
Crowdfund Insider: What do you see as different between US portals and Asian portals?
Tim Cheng: Managing creator expectations and also providing a better environment for them to tell their story. When we started in 2012, just communicating the idea of crowd funding took a lot of effort, so it is a long process. Another might be the difference in culture. Asian culture in general teaches people to be modest, which sometimes hinder their ability to convincingly tell their story or sell their idea. Projects in the States are usually more playful, whereas here backers look more carefully at the feasibility of a project. A positive here is that it is much easier to connect offline. Meaning creator events, parties, product launches, co-op with influencers from different sectors, etc. Our presence is definitely not just online.
Tim Cheng: We have been looking into it but really do not know enough to comment. The biggest prerequisites for crowdfunding are transparency and trust, which is something China still needs to improve on. However, China is a huge market
Crowdfund Insider: How is the regulatory environment in Taiwan?
Tim Cheng: Even though we have been pushing for regulation, I would say progress is slow. However, there is a renewed push for entrepreneurship from the government and next year would be very interesting. The OTC in Taiwan have started something called the Go Incubation Board for Startup and Acceleration Firms (GISA), which is like a offline version of semi- equity crowdfunding hosted by the government.
Crowdfund Insider: What about extending into the US market?
Tim Cheng: We are currently trying to concentrate on connecting Asia. It would be great down the road if we can become that bridge between funding and creativity, east and west.