China provided good examples of monetizing content business and helping KOLs monetize their knowledge and experiences. Now we are seeing how Chinese companies’ ideas are influencing Silicon Valley companies. Chinese knowledge sharing startup Fenda told TechNode that they had influenced the initial idea of the Silicon Valley startup Whale.

Of course, running a startup is about execution, and figuring out chicken and egg doesn’t matter in the fierce competition of startups. However, Fenda is a good example to show that China is building up its originality in startup ideas, execution, and spreading the words out.

Fenda is a Chinese Q&A platform that allows users to ask any questions to a KOL (key opinion leader), by betting RMB 1 – 500 for their answers. According to VP of Fenda Yang Lu, the partner at Y Combinator Justin Kan was inspired by Fenda’s idea to develop Whale, an online Q&A community app.

“When Justin Kan visited China, he interviewed us and later developed Whale,” Lu told TechNode.

The difference is that Fenda’s users get to listen to influencer’s one-minute voice recorded answer while Whale’s users enter into a one-to-one video conversation with the influencer. To avoid frequent questions piled to the influencers, Whale’s videos are recorded and added to a library of existing content.

Execution matters

The critical part of this kind of business is how do you make words go viral. For this reason, inviting well-known figures to make the noise is important. Justin Kan, as a partner of Y Combinator already has his pool of well-known figures including himself, previously founding live streaming app Justin.TV and Twitch, which was sold to Amazon for nearly US$ 1 billion. Fenda also had its resources before they started off.

“We didn’t start out of the grassroots. We’re serial entrepreneurs, and for Fenda, we stayed in stealth mode for a while to gather the influencers to our service,” Lu says.

Fenda is born from Zaihang (meaning be an expert at something), a paid knowledge sharing service connecting industry experts with the users. After launching the WeChat-based app on May 15th, 2016, Fenda saw a big leap in the growth of users. The WeChat app instantly gathered a million users from word of mouth, mostly because of the KOLs on the platform. Fenda asked Wang Sicong, the son of Chinese billionaire and other famous screenwriters, actors, and singers to come into Fenda to answer some of the questions which created a big buzz.

“We needed to make some noise. So we asked the KOLs to come into Fenda and answer some questions about the trend, the gossip, the hard parts of life,” Lu remarked. “KOLs and celebrities surely cannot answer those questions it for a long time. We got those supporting from when we first kicked off.”

Two weeks after that, they launched the Fenda app, which was awarded the best app in China Bang Awards 2017. According to Lu, their main users are post-85 to post-90s generation users. Following the 80/20 rule, however, their biggest spenders are older.

Knowledge sharing startups and Chinese social networks are in a battle to win over the KOLs to their platform. Live streaming played a crucial role in driving growth as be seen from Weibo, Momo and Zhihu. Lu says that the major player Zhihu has their users mostly in 1, 2 tier cities, while Fenda has more users from 2, 3 tier cities. She also mentioned Fenda’s answerer rating function and instant Q&A service will be available soon.

Eva Yoo is Shanghai-based tech writer. Reach her at