Mingyian, a platform that connects Western celebrities to their fans in China, has raised $500,000 in seed funding from #DominateFund, RRE Ventures, M. Night Shyamalan, Foley Ventures, and Eric Yao, an executive at one of China’s largest energy companies.
Co-founders Jenny Bai and Rebecca Eydeland say they realized celebrities and influencers already have a great hold in China and the ability to move products, but don’t know how to capitalize on it. The duo paired with Larry Namer, who previously founded E! Entertainment, and started Mingyian.
“How can they leverage [their popularity] if they can’t use any of the digital tools that are available to them in the U.S.?” Eydeland tells me. She says Mingyian seeks to bridge gaps in technology, where they will help celebrities find the right platforms to grow their brand, and in culture.
The company is already working with a range of celebrities, from Hollywood director Brett Ratner to former NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas.
When Arenas signed with a Chinese team, fans were worried that his knee wasn’t healthy enough to play. Mingyian helped him open a Weibo account to connect to fans and posted a short clip of a healthy Arenas dunking. Bai and Eydeland say Arenas saw a huge response from his Chinese fans.
“There are huge opportunities in the Chinese market, and Mingyian is the team to seize them,” #DominateFund co-founder Ben Parr says. “Every brand and entertainer that wants to make an impact in China needs to work with Mingyian.”
Bai says most celebrities are copying or pasting their tweets or doing something random in the market, and their visits to the country are haphazard and don’t add much to their brand.
“As China becomes a more and more important part of the financial equation for all media projects (as well as just about every other industry) the need for understanding how to build brand takes on paramount importance,” Namer says. “China is a very distinct market and you have to understand completely not just how it works functionally but you also must understand the mentality and cultural heritage. Simply trying to take what you do in the west and try to replicate that in China does not work.”
The platform will mostly monetize through advertising and selling digital packages, like online events with celebrities. The founders tell me there will also be a premium, paid service for celebrities who really want to grow their influence in China.