How a Cambodian social e-commerce startup is making its mark in SE Asia

The key to success is to start before you are ready, says entrepreneur Chai Zhi Ying, Commercial Director of YouAdMe, in this interview with MartechAsia.

Everyday, we receive many pitches for interviews with founders, CMOs, and digital leaders from various verticals across APAC. When I received a pitch that said, “From Singapore To Cambodia, This Young Lady Is Changing The Marketing Landscape For Business And Consumers” it caught my attention.

The lady in the spotlight is Chai Zhi Ying, founding member and Chief Commercial Officer of YouAdMe, a social e-commerce mobile application that tangibly converts consumers content and engagement into revenue for these businesses through peer-to-peer recommendation.

What is her story? What has her journey been like and what has she founded that is worth paying attention to?

We caught up with her to learn more about her journey as a woman in tech,  her transition from the arts to tech, and the lessons learnt from her journey. In this interview, she also gives us a glimpse into the marketing landscape in both Singapore and Cambodia.

Chai Zhi Ying, Commercial Director, YouAdMe

Tell us a little bit yourself. What were you doing before founding YouAdMe and what led you to found this startup?

Prior to starting YouAdMe, I was in a creative agency providing creative services to businesses to drive user engagement through innovative content. However, throughout the years running the traditional model, I realised that businesses today are facing difficulties in keeping up with the changing behaviour of consumers who are well-connected online. Consumers today rely more on their social network to search for credibility of products or services, rather than content that is being created by the brand themselves.

Hence, in late 2018, my fellow co-founders and I decided to transform our company into a platform with a mission to empower loyal customers and turn them into affiliates to help their businesses grow sales and trust with their innovative content in return for incentives.

What is the business model of your startup and what is the traction so far?

Short for ‘You Advertise Me’, YouAdMe is a social e-commerce mobile application that tangibly converts consumers content and engagement into revenue for these businesses through peer-to-peer recommendation.

YouAdMe’s app itself is driven by influence, where each successfully posted content is the gateway to earning more loyalty points on the platform. From referring friends to prompting another user to make a purchase, there are various ways users can earn points to cash out through each recommendation post. A win-win for consumers and brands, YouAdMe’s organic, yet incentivised, model is driven by an entire ecosystem of influence, creating a symbiotic relationship between businesses and customers.

Since its inception in 2019, YouAdMe currently boasts a quarter-million strong user base in Cambodia and is looking to replicate this success for other markets in Southeast Asia. We have just started in Singapore this year in 2021, and are moving into the Philippines next year.

What were the initial challenges of setting up your business? Did you get funding easily or was that a struggle too?

When we look at the bigger business environment, consumers’ ever-changing behaviour in the digital age is a major challenge. For us specifically, back when my team and I first started in Cambodia, there wasn’t much trackable data available. We needed local data to develop a practical solution that could fulfil our clients’ needs, but it was almost impossible to gather essential economic statistics.

We were also racing against time to get our product out in the market because we had limited funds, and we needed subscription sales fast. It was a challenge and to some people, it might have been seen as a huge gamble, but we believed in our product and thankfully our clients also believed in our vision. Many clients showed us invaluable support from the beginning, implementing our solution to solve their business needs and giving us feedback that helped us transform our initial product into its finished state now.

Six months after our launch, we had actually secured our first funding from a corporate investor and a local bank in Cambodia.

There are many companies in the region that have adopted social commerce. How do you differentiate your platform from others?

We are an independent social commerce platform with a strong resellers’ ecosystem, leveraging the power of selling to each of our communities’ network based on recommendations and curation offered. We work through the word of mouth to sell products through resellers to their own social network and acquaintances, earning a commission.

How do you see your company growing in the next few years? Is live streaming on your agenda as well?

We want to continue to reach out to more businesses across Southeast Asia, especially those that are affected by the pandemic, to support their business growth with our solutions.

We have also invested heavily on our live-streaming features to enable business on utilising the current trend of live selling which is entertaining and engaging to the audience.

What martech tools do you use to run the platform?

Our YouAdMe platform employs various martech tools from digital asset management and leads management to marketing automation in order to address every stage of our marketing cycle – namely, attracting, engaging, converting, managing, and finally understanding our users.

Are there any lessons you would like to share with your fellow business and marketing leaders?

The key to success is to start before you are ready. We are often never prepared for half of what we went through, but we got through it. We always will. The ideas that you have envisioned will come true, and the results might even take you by surprise.

Co-founders Bernard T. (left) and Jeremiah Lee. Supplied

YouAdMe aims to transform the retail landscape in Cambodia by creating an affordable and sustainable advertising channel for brands while encouraging consumers to meaningfully use their creativity and the power of their influence to value-add to the marketplace that ultimately exists to cater to consumers.

YouAdMe Co Ltd was started by Singaporean entrepreneurs Bernard T. and Jeremiah Lee.

Bernard, is a media veteran with over 20 years in the media and entertainment industry, having founded a multimedia production company, followed by 2 Digital Media Solutions agencies in Singapore and Cambodia, amassing an array of international brands under his belt.

A serial entrepreneur in the tech startup space, Jeremiah Lee is a leader in the real estate industry, with developments and partnerships across Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, China and Cambodia).

His mission is to transform and impact lives through technology, education and providing jobs.

Students crowd around YouAdMe booth. Photo supplied

With a firm resolution to help small medium enterprises (SMEs) cope with the increasingly competitive market in an ever-changing media landscape, the duo set up YouAdMe, an affordable and sustainable advertising solution to help businesses survive and grow while providing an avenue for enthusiastic youth to showcase and be rewarded

Check out the link here!


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