Internet startup investment is no longer a game just for geeks as the tech market swells. From Ashton Kutcher to Novak Djokovic, celebrities all over the world are racing to invest in innovative tech projects or bootstrapping their own startups. This trend is also in full swing in China.
Chinese singer-songwriter Hu Yanbin (Tiger Hu) is known as a talented all-round musician who encompasses genres such as R&B, hip-hop and rock & roll. Hu recently launched NEWBAND, a music education app that offers online video courses on vocal, piano, guitar, bass and jazz drumming.
Authored and taught by Hu and other professional musicians, the courses are around 20 minutes in length. Learners can access tutorials for singing and tips on playing multiple instruments via exercises and demonstrational videos. To attract a mass audience, the courses are based on pop songs. The app, currently available only on Android, updates with courses centered around current hits every week.
It is obvious that celeb entrepreneurs will draw more attention, which some are capitalizing on. Youku, China’s leading online video platform now investing heavily in self-produced content, teamed up with NEWBAND to roll out a music video course NEWBAND: Star Music Class (our translation) with a nearly RMB100 million investment (around US$16 million), according to iHeima.
Screenshots of NEWBAND
Online education has long been one of the hottest sectors in Chinese tech, but the incumbents of this emerging sector are mostly focused on language, K-12, or exam preparation. After booming growth in past two years, consolidation in China’s online language tutoring market has begun. It’s time for entrepreneurs to spread into different verticals rather than flocking into a few hot areas.
Yuquan–Hu Haiquan, Chen Yufan (L-R)
As one of the most prominent music groups with an interest in Chinese tech, two-man vocal band Yuquan dipped toes in startup investment years ago by financing startups from game developer Dragons Summon to smartwatch maker Tomoon. But most of their tech-related moves are focused on disrupting China’s traditional music industry, which has suffered a dramatic decline following the rise of digital music and music piracy. After releasing an album on USB in 2013, the band launched an album on a mobile app, which came pre-loaded on VOW, a Chinese music streaming headphone.
Ren Quan, Li Bingbing, Huang Xiaoming (L-R)
Chinese A-listers Li Bingbing, Ren Quan, Huang Xiaoming last year launched Star VC, a venture capital firm focused on internet startups. The trio put in funding, test the products and personally back the companies they invest with their reputations. Before this, the three were already known as successful investors in restaurants, bars and clubs, among others. Thus far, Star VC has invested in internet startups like Weibo-backed short-video app Miaopai, Xingyun, a social networking platform for culture and entertainment industry, and Handuyishe, a fast-fashion brand vastly popular on Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace.
image credit: Sina.com, ShutterStock
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)