Online video streaming is set to explode for the highly connected island nation, with media giant Netflix planning an aggressive expansion into Southeast Asia in 2016. Amid all the buzz, however, one plucky online streaming startup, Viddsee, is quietly growing market share, cultivating a dedicated community of users and rapidly gaining attention from investors.
Founded in 2012 as a Facebook page sharing links to short films, Viddsee has spent the past three years building out a niche market in hosting short films from Asian filmmakers.
Its first major hit, “Gift,” by Daniel Yam, garnered over 25 million views on the platform, and under the stewardship of its two founders, engineers Ho Jia Jian and Derek Tan, Viddsee has seen viewership numbers widen to over 2 million unique visitors each month.
Small numbers for now, perhaps, but large enough to catch the attention of venture capital firm CyberAgent Ventures. The Tokyo-based fund invested an undisclosed amount in September, bringing Viddsee’s total funding to date to $2.3 million. Viddsee previously received seed funding from ACE, a Singapore-government backed fund.
“They saw what we were building, and it was clear that from their background, Japan is looking at a lot of video startups, there’s a lot of activity from a video standpoint, and so we did fit in many ways,” Tan says. “For us, we’re expanding markets. They’ve got people on the ground in the markets we want to expand into and (the funding) helps us accelerate into those markets.”
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Chief among these markets is Indonesia, and the company is banking on mobile as its way into the country’s 100-plus million Internet users. The company released apps for iOS and Android devices in late 2014 and mid-2015, respectively, and has already seen mobile app users account for almost 70% of Viddsee’s unique page views, with between 80% and 90% of them returning users.
“The native mobile landscape presents a really interesting opportunity around retention of users, coming back from an app standpoint,” Tan says.
Of the many challenges that Southeast Asia poses, however, are differing broadband speeds in each country. Tan says while Singaporean users are able to take advantage of the country’s ultra-fast mobile broadband networks, Indonesian users tend to access the platform using home or office networks. Viddsee programmers then included an offline viewing function in the mobile app, a move that has paid off.
“We realized there was always this peak of users coming in during late office hours. People were caching using office Wi-Fi, and then consuming content when they were on the go.”
Yet monetizing these users may prove to be an onerous task. The platform is free and doesn’t feature advertising on its Web or mobile platforms, although the team is hoping to grow branded content into a viable revenue stream.
At the same time, the staff of 13 relies on a small but vocal community that evangelizes heavily to local audiences. LGBT films, for example, have found a following in the Philippines thanks to these influencers, according to Tan.