An Interview with
Foong Yuh Wen
Founder & CEO
SushiVid Sdn Bhd is ASEAN’s leading influencer marketing company. Launched in January 2016, SushiVid started off as a technology marketplace charging brands for influencers per-post basis. It has since branched out to include live streaming businesses, cost-per-sale influencer marketing, influencer reviews, influencer management, and etc.
In 2019, SushiVid’s influencers produced over 11,000 branded content for brands across Southeast Asia for over 1,500 brands. Its influencers currently come from 6 countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand, China, and across a variety of platforms including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Weibo, DouYin, Taobao, and LittleRedBook.
SushiVid is also a recipient of Cradle’s CIP500 Grant, an MSC Status Company, a winner of The Rice Bowl Startup Award Malaysia, a d-awards silver winner, and an A+M
14 September 2020
Tell us about your background, and how you came to found your company?
Formerly an equity research analyst and an aspiring actress, I worked through multiple tech-based startups in Singapore. These startups in its various stages have gone on to become some of the most successful startups in Asia today.
My involvement in startups started early in 2011 when I was a business analyst at Cradle Fund, an agency under the Ministry of Finance that offers grants to tech startups in Malaysia for conceptualization and commercialization.
In October 2015, I made the decision to start up on her own based on a problem I wanted to solve for myself. The result of which is SushiVid, a platform that helps brands to find, hire and work with social media influencers for marketing campaigns at scale. The business has since helped thousands of influencers to obtain sponsorships from brands from all over Southeast Asia.
I never stopped innovating and always strive to be at the forefront of the industry. To date, other than providing cost-per-post and cost-per-share influencer marketing, SushiVid also equipped with other services such as performance-based influencer marketing, e-Commerce listing services, the ultimate solution to optimise social media link-in-bio and etc.
What is most important to you and your organization – mission, vision, or core values? Why?
I believe all 3 are equally important. Without any of these 3, one company wouldn't be able to sustain for long. I learned this through the eFounder programme by Alibaba Business School and trust me, setting up your company's mission, vision, and core values is part of how you are setting your organization's culture. Hence, instead of preparing an employee handbook for each employee and get them to read it during their free time, our company is proving each of them a copy of the Company Culture Handbook, and I will make sure to go through the entire handbook with each and every one of my staff, including all the new joiners. I truly believe it's a way to keep an organization in a healthy form and ensure everyone is striving towards the end goal, which is the company's mission.
Can you explain briefly how your service(s)/product(s) works?
1. SushiVid - SushiVid is equipped with a complete influencer marketing tool that allows you to use crowdsource information to make better future decisions. To date, we have made over 11,000 branded content since the inception of the company with all data and analytics being stored since 2015.
2. GoShareLah - GoShareLah taps on SushiVid’s pool of influencers to share content that our brands have already made. It allows brands to get better reach where we amplify the messages by getting our pool of influencers to share the content.
3. SushiVid Live - SushiVid Live is our live stream department. It’s still fairly new but we are slowly transforming this model into a commission influencer marketing based model where brands pay only when the influencers make a sale.
4. IGLinks - Our brand new solution that allows our clients to get better results through a seamless user experience. It’s a One Link To Rule Them All feature that helps drive trackable traffic to your sites without the hassle to keep changing your link in bio! Sample page: https://www.iglinks.io/Lazada-9-9-alliffirdaus_
How has the industry been changing in recent years?
Evolution of Influencer Marketing
If you ever got on the social media carousel, you would find celebrities and social media icons tapping into their fan following to advertise, be it for products or services. For example, on my Instagram, “Elecher Lee” would narrate why she loves her new Laneige Cica Sleeping Mask.
Influence is a powerful word that moves another person toward making a choice. Whether we realize it or not, most of our choices are influenced by others. It may be about buying a new pair of clothing, watching a movie, or changing our skincare routines.
Today, many companies are boosting their sales and getting new customers by cashing in on the power of influencers.
What is Influencer Marketing
An influencer, a.k.a. a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) is a person who has the power to influence other people who are following him/her. He/she can be a sports star, an actor, a YouTuber or even a blogger. He/she is a trendsetter, a history maker.
Influencer marketing is where brands hire the influencers to create content or to share a post/an article/a video to influence you to take a certain action. It could be to join a competition, to dress a certain way, to buy something or to download an app. As these influencers have a large social media presence, the brand’s message is able to reach a wide audience.
Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO, Socialbakers mentioned when it comes to purchasing decisions, there has been an increase of buyers checking out reviews and feedback before making the final buy.
Influencer marketing is not new. The roots of influencer marketing go deep down the history dating back to the 1700s. A potter named Josiah Wedgwood requested King George III to endorse his pottery products. Thanks to influencer marketing, he soon became well-known. In 1905, an American silent film actor Fatty Arbuckle recommended Murad Cigarettes becoming the first recorded celebrity to recommend a product to others via the power of influence.
For a business in Asia, one dollar spent on influencer marketing earns them an average of $6.50 media value. Judging by SushiVid’s revenue last year, we know that influencer marketing has at least quadrupled.
Social media and influencer marketing are two sides to a coin. Nowadays, influencers play a crucial role in shaping our way of living, consuming and interacting.
However, let us take a look at the evolution of media, to begin with.
1997 - A U.S. freelance journalist named Justin Hall had created the first blog (Links.net). At that time, it was known as a personal homepage. Then in 1997, Six Degrees, the first recognizable social media site was created. It allows users to make friends. Later in 1999, a programmer Peter Merholz gave it a term ‘blog’.
By 2005, 9% of Asians were glued to the internet. According to one survey, almost 152 million blogs were active by the end of 2010.
The early 2000s saw the rise of social media sites such as MySpace and LinkedIn. Flickr and Photobucket made way for online photo sharing. In 2005, YouTube paved a new way of communication and sharing. The world was growing and the Internet went crazy with the invention of Facebook and Twitter in 2006.
Netflix launched in 2007, ever-changing the way the whole world started to consume media without being attacked by TV commercials.
With evolving technology, marketing didn’t fall far behind. At the start of the millennium, a new world opened for marketers as well – the Internet. Now they have an avenue to reach everybody economically at once.
The Evolution of Influencer Marketing
Did you know the first ‘Mommy blog’ was published in the early 2000s? Back then, these bloggers were hidden in one corner in the Internet world. Today, their influence is growing in leaps and bounds. Big brands are approaching these mommy bloggers by the herds for partnerships, leaving behind the traditional way of marketing through newspapers and magazines.
We have all seen celebrities endorsing products. But today a whole new category of celebrities has emerged which has shifted the limelight from traditional celebrities to these normal “regular” people. While most of us find superstars as aloof, unreachable and unrelatable iconic personalities, these bloggers are just one of us, relatable and accessible. Moreover, they are also being seen as authentic, transparent while giving their true reviews and recommendations.
While the world appreciated long-form content, somewhere in Silicon Valley, Jack Dorsey created a speedier, faster way to keep our friends updated - short snippets or otherwise tweets were created. Right around the same time, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, a visual way to get votes, gradually it evolved into becoming the social media giant it is today.
Millennials are largely responsible for the success of social media. There is an entire generation who has not seen the world without the Internet. To them, social media is the second nature. These millennials have no hard time connecting to their favorite influencer (who is mostly the same age as them)
The Rise of FOMO
When it comes to using social media channels, the older generation and millennials differ tremendously. While the older generation likes to share their travel pics on Facebook, the millennials love their privacy. Sharing their special moments on Snapchat or Instagram story for just 24 hours is more of their style. This is a shift from the Gen-Y and Gen-X. I guess their parents loaded too much of their photos on Facebook, they really just want the privacy more than anything.
Also, consumers today have an overhaul of information - more than they would want to consume. Due to this data overload, the attention span has been on a decrease. That is the reason people have started preferring short videos, quick updates on Instagram stories and not forgetting the new and upcoming TikTok.
While the younger generation prefers the short form contents, instant updates and the content that disappears within the timeframe of 24 hours, the older generation also benefited from the evolution of social media. There is a huge bunch of people who enjoy listening to podcasts while getting ready for work, while they are driving or even while they are running for a marathon. This is a largely untapped space and if any influencers, especially B2B category would like to take this up, it would be great!
As I am writing this, hundreds of new influencer agencies appear in Asia every day. They help brands to find the top leading social media influencers, and content creators to organically increase their sales. Streamlined solutions like influencer networks and match-making platforms have taken influencer marketing to an upward journey. Brands who are not adapting it are slowly losing in control.
Since the first incidence of influencer marketing until today, the landscape is evolving continuously. Believing a king’s words about pottery to trusting a complete stranger about what we buy – we have come a long way. The scope of the influencer market is growing each day.
But let’s not forget human beings are sharp and smart. They have a good sense of knowing if someone is really being genuine, or they are taken for a ride. Trustworthiness, attractiveness, and authentic connection are among the key indicator pillars of an influencer marketing. Hiring the right kind of influencers, thinking out of the box and constantly coming up with attractive concepts also play their role.
As social media gets more and more ingrained in our lives, the face and voice of influence will keep evolving as well. It is because of this, I firmly believe influencer marketing is set to only grow in leaps and bounds.
What makes you different from what’s currently available in the market?
SushiVid never stops innovating. Instead of an agency, we are actually a tech company that focuses on providing solutions to influencers and brands in influencer marketing. We are striving to make influencer marketing more seamless and for everyone. We would also like to educate and nurture the public everything they need to know about the industry, knowledge sharing is something we won't stop doing.
What does the future hold for your company?
We would like to make influencer marketing a true norm for everybody. My target is not just Malaysia, but the whole of South East Asia and even the world. As I mentioned, we are a tech-based and data-driven company, and our aim is to provide solutions to the brands, not products or services.