Exclusive: How much is your time worth? Chinese time-trading platform Miaoa allows users to trade time

Time-trading platform Miaoa closes three financing rounds and accrues 1 billion yuan in pre-paid accounts within one month.

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Exclusive: How much is your time worth? Chinese time-trading platform Miaoa allows users to trade time

Writer: Mandy Wang

Did it ever occur to you that time can be traded?

A Chinese startup named Miaoa is trading the time of celebrities.

Users can pre-purchase the time of the people they are interested in, from internet to real-life celebrities, startup owners to entrepreneurs and artists to experts, through the website or app of the time-trading platform. After the purchase, users can request an online video of their idol saying “happy birthday” to them, a lunch together with the celebrity offline or even a song written specially for them. All such rights are charged by the second.

The purchased time can also be an investment, whose value is shown in real time on m and can be re-traded.

Miaoa has closed three financing rounds in just one month, including a nearly 10 million yuan worth of angel round from Aplus Capital and Everest Venture Capital, some 10 million yuan investment from the live streaming service Ingkee and a 30 million yuan-valued A-plus round from Ingkee and Shunya International. According to Miaoa’s CEO, the B funding round is in the final stage too. Mu Yan, the co-founder of the online dating service Baihe, invested in Miaoa’s seed round previously.

A product that puts the fan economy to test — How much is a celebrity’s time worth?

The Chinese musician Liu Zhou’s one hour worth approximately $2520. Screenshot from Miaoa.

The fan economy and user traffic monetization have become cliché of the internet market, but how exactly do you assess the real activity of a celebrity’s fans or his or her monetization capability and market value?

Miaoa is offering an option by converting time into commodities and displaying its value in real time.

Miaoa’s technological team independently developed the underlying algorithms for its service. By assigning different weights to data collected from across the internet, for example, Baidu Index, Weibo Index, celebrities’ following on Weibo and the activity of their fans, Miaoa manages to quantify a celebrity’s monetization capability and, after explaining its service to the celebrity or his or her agency, signs a purchase contract for 240 hours of the celebrity’s time at a relatively low price. The celebrity is paid 50% of the money in advance.

Miaoa sets a threshold for celebrities who can trade on its platform by asking them to launch a presale for 25% (60 hours) of the time through WeChat. Only if the presale turns out successful can their time be openly traded on miaoa.com.

So far, Miaoa has put on sale the time of more than 170 people, including entrepreneurs, people in the show business, athletes, eSports players and cyber celebrities, which was snapped up as soon as it went online. Miaoa has nearly 300 additional celebrities “in stock”, among them globally known K-pop idols, who are expected to go online in batches once a week.

What buyers can do with the purchased time is classified into online and offline rights. The former include, among others, online chatting, by text or voice, replies or reposts on social media and shooting of customized videos, while examples of the latter are meals together, singing performances, and other activities celebrities can participate in (including appearance at commercial events). The smallest purchasable amount is one second for online services and two hours for offline services. The time purchased must be used within three months. No additional time of a celebrity will be offered before all purchased time is used.

The total amount registered on miaoa.com had ballooned up to 200 million yuan only after two weeks since the platform was launched. As of now, that number has rocketed up to a whopping 1 billion yuan with a monthly turnover of 300 million yuan to 500 million yuan and a daily turnover rate of 3% to 5%. The revenue of Miaoa is currently handled and managed by Weibo Payment. Without any marketing investment whatsoever, Miaoa has managed to leap forward by harnessing the existing influence of stars and celebrities.

Miaoa earns a profit by charging stars 20% service charge and 3‰ commission. It is reckoned that Miaoa will be able to pocket in 100 million yuan profit within a year-long period after June 2017.

Miaoa’s customers can be grouped into three categories: 40% are die-hard fans who purchase execution rights; 30% are investors who bet on stars with good prospects; 30% are speculators who want to nab some quick money.

The rising of Miaoa might propel skillshare, cashing out revenue from live streaming or even star brokerage to the next level

Time-trading platform cash out time. Image credit to 123rf.com.cn.

Miaoa is, in terms of transaction of execution rights, akin to skillshare platform. But, it seems a better fit for that market judging from how it is run. Firstly, the quantization of time makes the transaction more standardized and also diversifies the time packages on offer. Secondly, the price is adjusted and validated by the market, not at any person’s will.

Ingkee, a platform dedicated to live streaming, is also looking to explore a new way to cash out revenue from live streaming and web celebrities by investing in Miaoa in two financing rounds. The revenue from its “virtual gifts” has been going downhill in recent years, which strikes it as no odd as profiting from “virtual gifts” entails reaching constantly into users’ pockets. In contrast, transaction of execution rights involves real interaction. The fans can even make some money with his or her idols. It is not surprising at all if Ingkee inserts a portal for Miaoa on its platform.

To date, Miaoa has signed a number of famous singers and musicians including Liu Zhou, a music producer, and GAI, a rapper who just made his name only until recently. This means that, in the future, “work hours” for “song writing or production” can also be traded on the platform in addition to “leisure hours” for “sharing a hotpot”. (The time needed for writing a song can be quantified to 8 hours.) It seems that miaoa.com is set to turn into a platform where all appointments including booking musicians for song writing and stars for commercial performance could be arranged.

Apart from serving fans and investors, Miaoa also caters to business requirements by connecting actors, stars and celebrities with brand holders directly.

“Going to work is like selling work hours. Our focus currently is on packaging your time and selling them to fans,” says Ji Xiaowu, CEO of Miaoa. Obviously, more possibilities could spring up in the future in terms of time-trading.

Prospect for Miaoa – an extended market and creating scenarios for rights execution

It is expected that people in all trades including doctors and lawyers who have valuable time to transact can get a spot on miaoa.com through private placement and public offering.

Miaoa has been planning to expand to campus recently by signing campus celebrities at a relatively low price. This is yet another move by Miaoa to nurture its own stars. On top of that, offline events will be organized periodically to facilitate transaction of execution rights. That’s not all. It also looks to further expand its business by venturing into all-star restaurants, online variety shows and network dramas. 

Miaoa’s operation is backed by a group of people who are skilled in starting up businesses, internet operation and technology. Ji Xiaowu himself is also an investor/entrepreneur who has started up several companies.