The startup scene in the cultural and creative industry has been hot in recent years as more startup companies emerge in Macao. Among the startup trend, there are quite a number of outstanding companies. In Feature this time, we have invited founders of Manner, Galo-sorsorsorte, and Barra Studio, to share with us on how startup companies can make their first step in the Macao market.
Manner: building a comprehensive entertainment brand and developing diverse business services
Year of establishment: 2013|Company scale: over 80 employees
Initial capital: $5,000
Business scope: advertising and promotion; artist management; cultural exhibition; event planning
Manner is a local startup that provides the general audience with interesting and entertaining contents on Internet platforms. Born and raised in Macao, Manner’s founder Lok Chi Hou set up a branch office in Hong Kong recently. The startup company now employs over 100 professional talents in Hong Kong and Macao. From his perspective, major Internet platforms like Google and Facebook will take away most of the advertising business opportunities that media companies rely on. That’s why his startup company is aiming to diversify its business model to cash in through online clicks and views instead of solely relying on profit from advertising.
Cashing in through online views
Advertising is the core business for most media companies. As for Manner, the startup company has expanded its business service from advertising to several other areas, including offline scenes. For instance, Manner has entered offline scenes like the retailing industry and the catering business, cooperating with different brands from several sectors. The cross-sector cooperation covers areas like souvenir, food products, and catering, etc., aiming to penetrate mainstream consumption demand. Lok is now planning to open hotpot restaurants, convenience stores and barbershop, etc. under the brand name of Manner.
In addition, Manner seizes the opportunities coming from the emerging Internet celebrity. The startup will be building brick-and-mortar stores powered by Internet celebrities’ resources. “We will open different physical stores based on Internet celebrities’ respective focus. For instance, our celebrity Tina is perceived by the general public as a foodie. We will make good use of her reputation as a foodie to build up a catering brand. Through this method we can bring Manner’s unique features to different industries,” Lok explained. At present, Manner positions itself as a content provider, aiming to expand the scope of content and diversify its business. Manner is gradually converting its follower base and online traffic into profits, growing as a local entertainment brand.
A new management model
According to Lok, management has been the greatest obstacle for his startup company. To tackle this issue, Manner has simplified its company structure, which makes communication easier despite the diverse businesses the company is running. Besides, most of Manner’s artists and employees, as well as its founders, are young talents. That’s why Manner’s management model gives more freedom to the employees and encourages competition. From Lok’s point of view, there are a great number of opportunities in society, which makes it more important to find the right ones to achieve one’s value. “There will always be problems when it comes to managing people. Humans are complicated. I want them to generate value at Manner driven by their dreams and beliefs instead of orders from the senior management,” he said. “I agree with former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew’s idea that sometimes we just need to lift up the control a bit.”
Reasonable profit distribution for the artists
Lok has his own talent selection method. In his opinion, when you interact with people, you naturally learn whether that person is humorous or not. “Humour is something you are born with. Or it is something you get from your life experiences. You might wonder what humour is exactly. Humour is being unpredictable. It is about looking at things from other perspectives,” Lok said.
Manner currently cooperates with its artists via a contract or the pay-by-hour model. Artists with a contract enjoy a fixed amount as a minimum salary that ensures the artists’ basic life quality. The artists will get a 50% share of the payment from the clients as commission, which is quite a large ratio for artists as major companies only distributes 10% of the profit to their artists. Lok believes that artists are driven to work harder by higher income and that such passion can help the company thrive.
Government support matters
Even if Manner is gradually maturing in the cultural and creative market, the startup still has to face a large sum of monthly expenses as well as the labour cost from its branch in Hong Kong. Lok believes that the Macao government has strong support for startup companies. There are loans for small and medium-sized companies, cultural industry fund, and technology development found, etc., serving startups with different demands. According to Lok, mainstream enterprises will mostly choose cultural and creative products and services from companies in Hong Kong and Taiwan since the market in Macao is small. That is why support from the government can help startups like Manner grow in their initial phase.
Lok revealed that they had received financial support from the Cultural industries Fund. That drives them to work harder to achieve success. Lok said that their contents can compete with the Cantonese short videos in Hong Kong and Macao on free online platforms. Manner even won the Best Moment Award from TouTiao. There is no doubt that Manner has proven itself to be the industry leader here in Macao.