Web Marketing Platform Fever38
Mobilizing 1.3m a Month
Within the course of a year, two enterprising women developed eight different Facebook marketing tools that amass myriads of fans, becoming Taiwan's biggest Facebook event platform.
Mobilizing 1.3m a MonthBy Margaret Pai
Every day this company sets more than a thousand events in motion. Each month 1.3 million visitors take part in its campaigns. Who is it that's chalking up such impressive numbers?
Those numbers have been racked up since the formal online launch of Fever38.com last May. In the space of less than a year, Fever38 has unveiled eight different marketing tools designed to target Facebook groups. This streamlined, convenient interface simplifies both the budgeting and the execution of businesses' online campaigns, and has become Taiwan's biggest Facebook-based marketing event platform.
When the company's two similarly short-coiffed co-founders, Sydney Chen and Fay Yen, discuss the process of getting their start-up underway, they intermittently interrupt one another with peals of laughter. It is evident they're still running a passionate "fever" for their business.
Both in their early thirties, the two entrepreneurs come from similar backgrounds. They met in the U.S. where Chen was working at a start-up after graduating from Stanford's Computer Engineering Institute and Yen was working for a consulting firm after completing her studies in industrial engineering at the University of California at Berkeley.
Following the bursting of the Internet bubble in 2000 and the September 11 incident in 2001, both found themselves unemployed.
As it happened, eBay was in the process of recruiting staff to get its Taiwan operation up and running, and Chen returned to Taiwan to fill the position of product planner. Just three months later, Yen packed her bags at Chen's behest and returned to join eBay as a product manager. From a friendship in the U.S., the two returned to Taiwan to become co-workers and flatmates.
But things were not to go as swimmingly as they may have imagined.
Under eBay's global organizational structure, overseas subsidiaries enjoyed little autonomy, so they had little authority over product direction and felt more powerless as time went on. The two often returned home and kicked around the idea of forming their own start-up.
One day while riding the subway, Yen took notice of a particularly weary-looking, balding man. Upon second glance she realized it was her boss at eBay. Taken aback, she thought to herself, "This is not for me," and decided then and there to quit.
Finding Business Opportunity in Life Experience
In starting a business, one must start from those things one cares about. Since becoming unemployed in 2002, the two have made a point to go traveling each year. Among the destinations they have visited they count Turkey, Xinjiang in China, and South America.
It soon clicked in their heads that they could find business opportunity in their own personal experiences.
"When you travel, what's essential are tickets and accommodation – why don't we do something related to hotel booking?" they thought, seizing on the still-nascent idea of an online budget accommodation platform and seeking out friends to write a website for them. At the outset they cast an ambitious eye on a global market.
But they were unable to come up with a profitable formula, and after some emergency reorganization they recalibrated their sights to focus on Taiwan with promotion of "whiich.com.tw," a website dedicated to budget accommodations in Taiwan.
Lady luck had smiled upon them. The duo had not only found a free means of promotion, but had also started a new enterprise.
As Facebook began to really take off in Taiwan in 2009, Chen seized the opportunity to write a few software applications for use as marketing tools – for example, a test to find your ideal traveling companion and a travel calendar/organizer – embedding the "whiich" website link in the apps. User numbers quickly grew to more than 200,000.
The number of businesses clamoring to hitch their wagons to the Facebook craze by setting up fan pages and recruiting fans also did not escape Chen's attention. The only thing was, there was a lack of relevant marketing tools out there.
Chen saw an opportunity and wrote her first marketing tool software: "Hot Deals." Through the simple process of leaving a comment and clicking "like" to draw for a prize, they garnered more than 10,000 users within three months. At nine months, their number of users had grown ten-fold.
What they had initially thought would be a lazy, meandering path turned out to be a magnificent boulevard toward the future.
The staggering marketing demand from small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) the two found on Facebook, combined with the five marketing tool software applications they had already written, led to rapidly diversifying business activities. In May of last year, the pair decided to establish fever38.com to go after the commercial opportunity Facebook fans offered.
Less than a year later, they had already recorded their one millionth use by a Facebook member, exceeded 14,000 fan pages on the platform and held nearly 40,000 fan events. Fever38 clients now include Family Mart, Weichuan, Adidas and Eslite, and operating revenue last year hit NT$5 million.
"Fever38's tools are simple to operate, and their ability to draw customers is powerful. So they're well suited for SMEs with limited budgets," says Violet Chang, a vice president with brand consultant SOHO.
But the war is far from over. Although they've generated plenty of traffic, bringing on potential clients to energize marketing efficiencies remains insufficient.
Although Fever38 has been able to generate rapid growth in the numbers of its fans, it remains to be seen how that will play out as regards long-term growth, notes Nathan Chiu, CEO of cacaFly, Facebook Taiwan's advertising agent and a Fever38 competitor.
Chen and Yen are also aware of the issue.
"You get the feeling the service value of what we're doing right now is not all that high," Chen says with a note of exasperation.
On the one side are companies seeking to lure fans with gifts, while on the other are customers looking to access products and become fans. What is lacking is in-depth interaction between the two sides that results in brand building.
Helping Clients Take Precise Aim at Consumer
The two are now in the midst of modifications to the platform, and the next step will be to conduct classes and cooperate with businesses to inform business owners how to best use their tools for optimum marketing efficiency.
To go beyond the commonly employed "shallow-dish" marketing tactic of cutting and pasting one-sentence slogans, Fever38 intends to expand the space businesses can use to make themselves heard. Using presentations similar to news reports in conjunction with online interactive events, companies will be able to more effectively introduce their brands to consumers.
Next, Fever38's myriad initiatives will be categorized based on user demand and user interest, with targeted recommendations making the information more relevant and hitting closer to home for like-minded users.
"We're looking to become a consumer information platform to allow business owners to be heard and to reach the right consumers," Yen says, clearly enunciating the next objective.
Entrepreneurship is an exceptionally arduous endeavor. Since starting their business, neither Chen nor Yen has collected a salary. But the two seemingly gentle souls remain unafraid. A 30-something starting a business generally has more capital than a 20-something and has a lot more worldly experience to boot.
"Even if it fails, we will have gained valuable experience," Chen says.
"Opportunity always presents itself," Yen adds. "It's up to you which one to seize."
The next opportunity Fever38 intends to seize lies in the Southeast Asian market. In the second half of this year they'll be sourcing capital investment so that Fever38 can keep pace with Facebook's march across the globe.
Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy
Co-Founders: Fay Yen, Sydney Chen
2011 Operating Revenue: NT$5 million