For years, I’d been fascinated with the fan-subbing community – the community of fans who subtitle shows from other countries into their local languages. After meeting many fan-subbers and talking to my sister who is a leading academic studying this community, I was convinced that while they were targeted by many media companies as “pirates” they were in fact “fans” and the bedrock for distribution and marketing for cultures across borders. I tried several times to try to bridge the gap between the media companies and the fan-subbers, but without a neutral intermediary, the traction never occurred and these communities continued to be at odds.
When Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures referred ViKi (Viikii at the time) to me in November of last year, I was very excited. ViKi was exactly the bridge between these communities that I was looking for. In addition to bridging this gap and being a social good, it also triggered my venture capital alerts with a business model that made total sense. After meeting Razmig, Changseong and Ji-Won, I realized that this was a great team as well – former media company exec, technical guy and fan-sub community member. Also, Razmig is Egyptian and Changseong and Ji-Won are Korean and they were moving the company to Singapore. It was all perfect.
We were able to put together great investors from all over the world to support this immediately global company. Global investors, global market, international team, bridging the gap between amateurs and professionals with a small and agile team. It’s a prefect example of the kind of deal we’re looking for at Neoteny Labs and I’m happy that we’re finally able to talk about it after a longish period in stealth.
The business model is deceptively simple. The cost of subtitling usually exceeds the non-local distribution value of content in many cases. Fan-subbers who “illegally” subtitle content aren’t thieves and are more interested in the community and having access to the content than making money or “stealing”. By connecting the fans with the content owners, ViKi is able to provide subtitles to the content owners, pay money for the content through distribution deals and ads and provide very detailed marketing information based on viewership online and the feedback from the 100,000+ strong fan subbing community on ViKi.
The key to success is the ability to talk to the fan-subbing community and the content owners in their own language and build technology that makes the community management and the subtitling frictionless and fun.
Congratulations to everyone involved on a launch of the new site. I look forward to working together as an investor and a board member.