A Taiwan-based startup called Next Entertainment has raised $25 million in an outsized Series A round of funding for apps that make it possible to live stream for a living.
The company’s founder and CEO, Andy Zhong, is no stranger to tech and new media. He previously started FunPlus, a social gaming company acquired by a Chinese conglomerate, Zhongji, in 2014 for $960 million.
In fact, FunPlus is one of the investors in Next Entertainment, along with China social live-streaming giants Inke, which incubated the new company.
For the unfamiliar, Inke is a major live-streaming app in China that brings everyday users together in chat rooms where they can interact with and broadcast alongside a known or emerging personality.
Inke’s app allows viewers to pay live streamers with virtual gifts that they purchase in-app. Think of it like a video conference call crossed with a YouTuber’s latest meme-ready installment with a tip jar. Inke also gained note for its “beautify” filters that are meant to help users feel confident before they live stream.
Next Entertainment is aiming to export and mirror the success of its predecessor Inke beyond China.
Its flagship app, available in Taiwan now, is called MeMe. It allows users to build a following, connect with viewers and make money through ads and digital gifts.
Streamers can click the camera button and choose if they want beautify or not before they start a live stream. Viewers can follow popular streamers, or streamers they’ve discovered and like, and interact with them, or each other, sending them social gifts as they would on Inke.
And users can check nearby to interact with locally based streamers.
The company will take a category-specific approach in the U.S. with apps dedicated to live streaming around special interests for sports fans, Zhong tells TechCrunch.
Zhong said Next Entertainment will also gamify its apps. “Both viewers and streamers will gain access to different features by doing certain activities as they level up.”
The company’s competition in the U.S. will include everyone from Facebook Live, Snapchat and Twitter to newcomers like Kanvas, or genre-specific mobile social networks that have incorporated live streaming, such as Nom.