Mingyian, a brand management start-up, has secured $500,000 in seed money to develop a social media platform for Western celebrities to engage, grow and monetize their fan base in China, the company announced on Tuesday.
Investors include "After Earth" director M. Night Shyamalan, RRE Ventures, #DominateFund, Foley Ventures, and Eric Yao, a senior executive at one of China's largest energy companies.
China is the largest online market in the world, U.S., but social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked by the country's Great Firewall. Mingyian connects Western clients with China's 600 million online users through social media portals like Tencent, Sina, Tudou, and Youku. It is also developing its own platform, which is expected to launch in the fall.
"An important part of the work is selecting the right talent for the platform," said Rebecca Eydeland, co-founder and president. "Other platforms have attempted to sync U.S. media of celebrities, but not in a way that focuses on Chinese audiences and market opportunities. Everything we build has the Chinese audience in mind."
Co-founder Larry Namer, president and CEO Metan Development Group, was on hand to speak at TheWrap's TheGrill@Locations conference last week, and explained the importance of immersing yourself in Chinese culture if you want to succeed there.
"If you're going to do business in China, you have to be in China," Namer said during the keynote interview. "You have to immerse yourself in the culture, you have to have an incredible amount of patience."
China has become one of the most important markets in the entertainment industry, with the box office growing over the last few years to become the world's second-largest movie market.
Mingyian's co-founder and CEO Jenny Bai calls it "a no brainer" for celebrities seeking influence in the market to utilize the company's services.
“Mingyian helps celebrities and their teams replicate their marketing efforts, and with our micro-event platform, they can finally access Chinese fans and consumers in a way they never could before," Bai said.
She said that Mingyian has "actually tried to stay away from making comparisons to U.S. platforms, since we are really a combination of many. The point is that there is no platform that deliberately connects the content, icons and audience of two countries in this way."