During a trip to his hometown Penang Island, Malaysia, in 2018, Jerry Hang saw firsthand the way young people seek fame and popularity online, to the point where some are making a living off of their web presence.
Fifteen minutes of fame can come and go quickly. All it takes is one viral TikTok video to become a phenomenon. However, being truly influential is about identifying one’s uniqueness to deliver knowledge and experience that is valuable to other people, Hang told KrASIA.
“People don’t have to be young and attractive to become a KOL [key opinion leader],” Hang said. “With the right skill sets and resources, everyone can fully express themselves and become a KOL.”
That’s where he saw the opportunity and founded Moden KOL, an “all-in-one KOL e-commerce platform,” in 2019. It provides training to individuals who want to be influential on social media and operates a platform for brands and KOLs to connect with each other.
The hands-on workshops usually teach people the essential skills of being an influencer, including personal branding, video production, and copywriting. The company partners with local colleges so its students receive certificates upon completion.
Fees range from USD 119 to USD 713, and participants gain access to Moden KOL’s job marketplace after completing the course. Brands don’t have to pay any fees to recruit influencers through this portal. Hang’s team also runs an in-house production studio and warehouses to store samples from brands. These facilities shape the careers of the firm’s contracted influencers.
When Hang first founded Moden KOL, Malaysia’s e-commerce industry was booming, with the sector’s market value nearly doubling from 2016’s level to reach USD 5.7 billion in 2019. Then the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, drastically changing many people’s purchasing habits as they moved online. In 2020 alone, e-commerce transaction volume in the country climbed nearly 25% to USD 7.1 billion, and is expected to reach USD 12.6 billion by 2024, according to analytics consultancy GlobalData.
“The pandemic makes it impossible to do business offline, so actually more people, especially the older generation, also started to realize the importance of the online presence,” Hang said.
So far, Moden KOL has trained more than 2,500 influencers aged 8 to 80, Hang said. Beyond Malaysia, the company has also collaborated with over 500 brands across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Hang expects his company’s total revenue to reach USD 1 million this year. Moden KOL is now seeking investments to operate more warehouses and provide more cost-intensive resources to contracted influencers.
Hang is a serial entrepreneur. He co-founded two health tech startups in 2014. One of those firms was acquired by Jireh Group, a company based in Singapore, in 2018.
Moden KOL was one of the ten finalists of the Alibaba Cloud x KrASIA Global Startup Accelerator Hong Kong Online Demo Day, which was held on December 14.