Myanmar startup secures local investment to expand abroad
AFTER RAISING US$140,000 (Bt4.8 million) investment from five local technicians last week, White Merak, Myanmar’s first ever animated comic application, has planned to expand its services to other countries, according to Aung Ye Kyaw, founder and chief executive officer of the start-up.
He said the newly-secured funding places the startup’s value at $600,000 in total. The funding came from Kyaw Tha, managing director of KTS Myanmar, Thar Htet, managing director of Zwenexsys Ltd., Htoo Myint Naung, CEO of Technomation, Kyaw Thu Aung Ba, VR & AR investor, and Mike Myat Min Han, founder of Cars DB.
According to Aung Ye Kyaw, the firm is now doing feasibility studies to expand to other Asean countries.
“Initially, we will start expansion to English-speaking countries in the region. Firstly, we hope to launch our services in three Asean countries - Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines by the end of this year. Then, we will expand to other countries within and beyond Asia by the end of 2018,” he said.
The firm recently did a market research to explore opportunities to expand to Thailand but decided to go there later due to the domination of local language comic apps there.
“In the first three countries we are targeting, we do not need to worry about language barrier, as our app will be launched in English. We will try to ensure our app is bilingual when we expand to other countries including Thailand so that we can attract new readers from those countries,” he said.
He said the startup would shortly expand services to comic book lovers living outside of Yangon, Mandalay, and Nay Pyi Taw, where the majority of their users reside.
“We will grow our current user base of 17,000 to at least one million by the end of 2018. It seems pretty ambitious but we believe we can make it happen,” he said.
He aimed to attract more than 100,000 readers by this year-end. The comic episodes that will be available on the app would grow threefold from the current 40 to 120 by the end of 2017.
He planned to significantly increase investments on improving application technology as well as distribution and payment systems.
“We are excited to expand our services to regions outside of Myanmar’s urban centres. Generally, the entertainment options at these areas are limited to TV and radio. Myanmar’s connectivity revolution has provided us an immense opportunity to offer better and more appealing entertainment options,” he said.
Currently, the company employs a total of 12 permanent staff and three main freelancers. Additionally, it has partnered with more than 10 groups of comic artists to create new contents and episodes.
“Our readers can read comics in both Burmese and English languages with a single touch of a button. Our strength is that all the comic artists can upload and sell their own comic books through our app. We are selling 25-30 pages episode of a comic series at 500 Kyats,” he said.
Aung Ye Kyaw said the startup aimed to become the No 1 entertainment platform in Myanmar in the near future.
“The content market in Myanmar is heating up. With international content providers coming in, local tech businesses need to make sure that they are staying on the competitive edge. This requires a great understanding of the consumers as well as financial support from investors,” he said.
“The hurdle we are now facing is user-friendliness. We need to educate the Myanmar people about mobile payment systems and digital services. We are organising some events to promote knowledge sharing twice a month.”