The Jay Kim Show #5: Marina Bay (Transcript)
Today’s guest is Marina Bay, who is one of the co-founders of BeFast.TV. BeFast is a media company that was originally started to help startup founders document their startup journey. Marina is very active here in the local Hong Kong startup scene and her company now is expanded into doing events. She is throwing an event tonight at the Startmeup Hong Kong 2017 festival. It’s going to start at 5:30 PM at Qube, which is at the PMQ on Aberdeen Street. If you guys are based in Hong Kong, head on over to FashionTech.Asia, buy your ticket, go see the FashionTech event. It’s going to include a catwalk at the end. She has promised that. She talks about all of that in today’s episode so let’s get right into the show.
Jay: Marina, thank you for joining the podcast. We’re very excited. We have a very exciting start me up week coming up ahead, but before we get into that I would just like to ask you a few questions about yourself, what you for a living, how did you become an entrepreneur and maybe a little bit about your background.
Marina: Yeah, absolutely Jay. Thank you again for having me here. Yeah, it’s true indeed that we’re all excited about the start me up [inaudible 00:02:01] coming week in January. Personally I’m so glad that this time I’m not just simply attending the week and the conferences during this week, but also we are one of the companies that’s hosting the event so it’s double excitement for my company and for myself personally.
As for my background, I’m Russian actually so I came to Hong Kong five years ago. After my study back in Moscow and then I studied for a while in Germany, Berlin, and then of course I made some study in China. That’s why my move to Hong Kong was quite smooth, moved from China to Hong Kong.
Jay: I see. What part of China were you in?
Marina: I was in Chengdu, Sichuan province.
Jay: Okay. Do you speak Chinese?
Marina: I speak a little Mandarin, but people, I think foreigners, who understand me who live in Hong Kong because Hong Kong people speak absolutely amazing English and it’s not truly necessary to know either Cantonese nor Mandarin unless you speak English right?
Jay: That’s right. Yeah, I don’t speak either and I’ve been living here for 11 years. Okay wow, so actually that’s interesting. I didn’t actually know that you were Russian. I wouldn’t have guessed. Anyways.
Marina: Yeah, I know. My appearance, who can see me or who met me before, of course the first impression that could go even living in Hong Kong was Asian appearance. She must be Chinese. Yeah, but I’m not because Russia is big and there are a lot nationalities [inaudible 00:03:44] including some Asian looking nationalities.
Yeah, I studied economics and management and I got lucky to get job in Hong Kong. I worked for a small boutique company, foreign company, here in Hong Kong and I made my way all the way from reception to customer relation manager.
Jay: Oh wow, and this is for a boutique retail …
Marina: It was a boutique legal firm like [inaudible 00:04:17]. I think it gave me the background and understanding actually the legal part of doing business in Hong Kong, all the papers and how it works, who’s the shareholder, who is [inaudible 00:04:33] shareholder, who are directors and so on. What are the rules on paper, how to run the company from legal point of view.
Jay: That’s very important and it usually costs a lot of money because people don’t know anything about it, like myself. When I was in college my worst grade was business law so I knew I would never become a lawyer. Now I have to, if I ever want to get any legal documents looked at, I have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get a lawyer to look at it. It’s very good and useful that you have that legal background. Okay, so how long were you there for?
Marina: Yes, I think it’s very useful knowledge that I gained while working for this company. I was working for the company for two years and a half or three years, around three years. It’s really worth to make a point that Hong Kong is not that complicated in terms of setting up a company and I really have to mention to our audience that it’s simple to just go and set up a company by yourself. Everything is very clear and transparent. You just go to some government websites and it’s stated pretty clear what you need to do, what kind of documents you need to prepare and [inaudible 00:05:44].
Jay: Yeah, it’s definitely, globally, it’s one of the most friendly locations to set up a business. That’s for sure. Okay, so what year did you come to Hong Kong?
Marina: The beginning 2012.
Jay: So 2012, and then you worked at the legal law firm for two years.
Jay: Then, was it at that point that you branched out and you decided that you wanted to do something more entrepreneurial or was there another step along the way?
Marina: Well, I think it’s [three years inaudible 00:06:13] for everyone maybe, not only for the relationship but also for your career path. It’s like, “Okay, now I have to move on and do something else.” It’s really important to hang out with the right people, with people who can advise you something, say like, “Yes Marina, you’re doing great and I think it’s right decision that you want to move forward and try something else, try yourself in other industries or in different part of business.”
Yeah, I was talking to my mentors, I would say, here in Hong Kong and my friends and they advised me, “Yeah, you can do something else. How do you see yourself in five years?” I already understood by then that I loved to talk to people. I’m quite a very sociable person so it’s not a big deal for me just to go somewhere and just talk to strangers and have these very engagement conversations. Yes, I want to talk to people. I’m not ready to sit in front of a computer the whole day and just dealing with paper. Then I came across with some of my friends and they’re already starting the business called, they called it BeFast actually already. The venture really existed and I just joined them so I have co-founders in my company. I joined them and trying myself and we realized that working so that’s why we all decided to say, “Okay Marina, you’re going to be in charge of all operations and activities.” That’s why I like to have these different hats like CEO and video journalist and co-founder as well.
Jay: Right. Well yeah, if you’re a startup founder or if you ever worked in a startup you realize that there’s no such thing as this is my sole responsibility, right?
Jay: You end up doing everything.
Jay: Which is fun and it’s challenging and you learn a lot, but it’s also stressful a lot of times because it’s just so many things you’re juggling at once, right?
Marina: Absolutely, yeah.
Jay: The business that you … BeFast, has it iterated at all or it was always the same thing from the moment when you joined? Is was still the exact same thing that it is now?
Marina: Oh my gosh, it’s impossible to have just on the exact same. I think our business model changes daily. We try and think, “Okay, let’s do this. No, no. Let’s do another thing.”, and then you’re just trying to jump from another thing to different parts of ventures. What is consistent, and I think it’s very important that I’m trying to communicate to my co-founders and teammates, that we have in this media platform called BeFast.TV and we have our own media platform where we can generate our own content and drive traffic and leads to this content. Nowadays it’s like to have your own channel on TV and I see BeFast.TV as a platform for any other business activities that we can build on top of it because it’s going to be our basis. If we manage to build this through and to gain the traffic and to gain more subscribers and views, then we can promote other business. [inaudible 00:09:31] our client’s businesses, [inaudible 00:09:32], but also our own businesses that we want to have in the future hopefully.
Jay: It’s definitely the way of the future. If you think about the shift that’s happened in the last five, maybe five to ten years but it’s not that long ago, that there’s a huge shift into social media, video, mobile. These are all trends that are going to be there for the next 10, 20, 30 years, right? The fact that you are setting up a platform, not just for what you guys want to do but that you can then add layers on top of that or you can host other people’s on your media platform, I think that’s really powerful.
If you think about attention, where it’s going to be in the future, it’s going to be a video. No one reads anymore, right? Attention is so hard to grasp now and people don’t have time for any of this type of stuff so it has to be very evocative, very gripping content, very good content, but it also has to be in a form that’s very easily consumable. Reading a blog post or a book, not everyone can consume content like that, and less and less. I think people, the more they’re around cell phones and mobile … So, I think it’s a good trend. It’s a very good trend that you’re jumping on. Also, the cool thing and unique thing is in Hong Kong you’re a very early adopter. There’s no one, right? There are parts of larger organizations that might be trying to do something like this, but I actually haven’t seen anything like BeFast before. Why don’t you tell our audience exactly what BeFast is and maybe you can talk about your company a little bit?
Marina: Sure. BeFast.TV is online video channel with a focus on startups and entrepreneurships. We’re trying to go to startups and those small companies that’s trying something new and innovative, trying to bring some innovative [inaudible 00:11:29] to the market and get the story out to them, and then put it into the video and upload it to online so the whole world can see what’s going on. Since we started from Hong Kong, we decided Hong Kong is pretty small market, right? That’s how I decided, “No, we’re not going to concentrate only in Hong Kong market. Let’s interview and meet startups in the whole startup community including VC firms, accelerate the different parties involved in the entrepreneurial world, not only in Hong Kong but across Asia as well as Europe and of course Silicon Valley, because Silicon Valley is the mecca for all tech companies and all innovation.
That’s why we said, “Okay, let’s put some efforts, let’s pack our equipment and go to the biggest startup ecosystem and startup centers in the world.”, like San Francisco, Silicon Valley and now we’ve been to even Finland. We plan to go to Berlin, Tel Aviv. Yeah, so all these countries. It’s amazing, the whole startup community is interesting for me because people are open to talk about their business, about their venture. That’s actually the … BeFast.TV is trying to put it to the audience saying, “These are people that’s trying something new, that’s really trying hard to innovate and it’s not only here in Hong Kong but [inaudible 00:12:57] everywhere.”
Jay: Yeah. Okay, the company was started to help the little guy, the small startups that needed their voice to be heard, is that right? That’s how you guys wanted this to start off as?
Marina: Well, this was clear from out curiosity because I’m curious how do you start, how do you manage to motivate your team, how do you push your services further, how do you get your first funding and investment? [inaudible 00:13:25] in media and journalism because nobody pays us. We just go and we’re truly interested in your story, interested and really want to hear your story and we try our best to edit it and put in a quality way online.
Jay: You are literally, yeah, you’re just capturing. You’re documenting a startup.
Jay: The startup’s journey basically.
Jay: All the challenges they face, and along the way you basically repurpose that into content, put it on your site and share it.
Jay: Share the message with the world. Okay, that’s great. I’ve seen your site. I’ve looked around it and it looks really nice and it’s very pleasing. It’s a beautiful site, visually it’s very evocative, right? It makes you want to stay on the homepage, click around. You can consume little bits of espresso shots of content, right? Little videos here. There’s a podcast, there’s some news and whatnot and a blog. It’s very nice. Now the next question is what’s your revenue model? It’s nice and it’s very kind of you to be going around trying to be a good Samaritan and helping these startups spread their word and document their process and maybe helping them with the funding round, but at the end of the day you guys are also running a company. So, how do you plan on generating some revenue?
Marina: Okay, as you mentioned, video is a big trend and online video is a big trend. First of all, we got the media platform. Of course, since we’re generating our own video content, we got the proper video production house. We have all newest equipment that we can get now in the market. Of course there is always room for improvement and new cameras just popping up on the market every day. But we realized that we have everything in order to name ourself a video production company. As more we’re there somewhere in the market between startups, the more companies they seeing us a video production company. We get these inquiries from people like, “Okay, I need actually video crew, professional video crew, who can document our either event or we want to tell about our services to market. We’re ready to pay.” Or, for example, if the city is having the whole week of startup conferences, they can also hire us saying, “You know guys what you’re doing. You have a particular focus about startups. You know what kind of questions you need to ask. You know whom to interview. You know where to put the cameras and so on.” We know what to ask, where to put, so technically and from the content point of view, so they hire us. This is one part of the business model, as a video production house.
Jay: Sorry. Do you also do the post-production, editing and stuff like that or is it just …
Marina: Yes, all together.
Marina: We do video. We go to the sets or we shoot everything and then we do post-production, animations, 3D graphics.
Jay: Oh wow, so it’s literally a whole package. They’re hiring you to basically do the entire thing.
Marina: Yes, yes.
Jay: The whole production, right. Just out of curiosity, what’s the pricing like on something like that? I’m completely ignorant. I don’t know how much these things cost. I’m just curious. Let’s say I wanted to hire BeFast for a three hour conference that I was putting on or an afternoon conference. Yeah, three, four hours, have you guys run around and maybe produce a 30 minute segment on it. What do you think that would cost me as a event organizer?
Marina: It depends on your budget. It depends how [inaudible 00:17:11] you want to have it. We have pretty simple packages and it’s just market price because in our world we charge per hour. We charge per hour, we charge how many people you need because you have not only videographers but there’s also you have assistant videographers. What kind of equipment do you want to use? [inaudible 00:17:31] different cameras, lights, microphones, sound systems. Then, on top of it, we can do live streaming. We can do live streaming and do live editing for you if you want to have your own live system and then you want to live stream online your events. We can do this. If you want to use drones, 360, we can do it. Different packages, depends on your budget.
Jay: And you own all the equipment that you have?
Marina: Yes, we do [inaudible 00:17:59]. I’m learning too. I’m here in the business only one year and a half but I managed to hire professionals and they’re telling me, “Okay Marina, if we have [inaudible 00:18:14] big event and we’re not at the capacity, we always can hire freelancers.”, and it works like this. Yeah, we’re pretty comfortable manage small and big events.
Jay: Okay, that’s awesome. One stop shop video production crew if you want to get something done. I guess you could even start from the planning stage, right? Let’s say I wanted to do an event, I would bring you in early on and say, “Okay, here’s how I want the end result to look.”, and then we could work together like that, right? Okay, and then what else do you guys have? Is that your only source of revenue or is there other things that you guys are working on as well?
Marina: Well, now we’re trying to stepping into events, so StartmeupHK [crosstalk 00:18:54].
Jay: Good segway into what you guys are doing. This is going to be a big week.
Marina: Right. We stepping into the event organizing business and it’s going to be for us it’s going to be our pilot event. We got so lucky that InvestHK got this small gap or room. We tried to squeeze our event and we’re thinking, “Okay, what kind of theme, what kind of topic we can bring to the Hong Kong audience and to those international guests who are coming to Hong Kong for this week?” Of course we have FinTech, HouseTech, RetailTech coming. Then we thought, “Okay, what about FashionTech?”
Jay: I think it’s awesome. I’ve never even heard of it but I think it’s really, really good. I think a lot of people will show up to that just because it’s so unique, right?
Marina: It’s unique for Asia. You will be surprised because FashionTech in the West like London, Berlin, New York, it’s there already for many years. They’re having conferences every year, several times maybe a year in those cities, but it’s [inaudible 00:20:06] and Hong Kong, in Asia in general.
Jay: Okay. Tell us Marina, what exactly is FashionTech? When you say FashionTech, what does that mean?
Marina: Okay, I think that recently technology, the whole topic about technology, became so popular because of maybe the pace, the recent pace of development of technology, but fashion I think that fashion always been there. You cannot make technology successful unless it’s fashionable. That’s why I think it’s very important to merge the things together because technology cannot … It’s just technology. Okay, so you have all these silicon wires but this is not fashion, it’s just from the engineering part. We decided, okay fashion, people think about [inaudible 00:20:54], glamorous, something very trendy. Technology is something geeky, something that normal people don’t have access to that. But in fact these two things should be together. They must be together. If you’re a fashion designer, nowadays you cannot just produce clothes which is not smart because if you look at the current generation of Millennials they want everything to be connected to their phone and to be trackable. That’s how we see and we want people talk about this more and we want fashion designers who are very creative in terms of design some new clothes. Those people who in technology and know how to connect chips to wires and to application, they need to get together.
Jay: That’s interesting because when I hear FashionTech what I think about and what you described I would think initially the vertical of just athletic sportswear, Fitbit wearables, bags and clothes like lululemon that have that thing where you can put your cord for your iPod and stuff like that, right? That’s what I would think initially, but you’re saying that there’s a whole scope behind that of even within the non-athletic apparel segment. Is that right?
Marina: It’s true, yes. Absolutely. Okay, yeah, yeah of course you have wearables, you have smart clothes, at the same time clothes. What is clothes? It’s not only wires somewhere hidden inside the clothes, but also it’s about fabrics and new materials. Now it’s very popular to use the materials that they use in space and to protect you from, I don’t know, the sun or something like this. At the same time you have FashionTech startups that focusing on the big data e-commerce or it can be a smart mirror. It’s all sort of things.
Jay: Yeah. I think I guess if you don’t think about it and you’re not exposed to it, then you don’t actually know how wide of a segment that is.
Jay: For the conference, that’s going to be on the first day, is that right? The retail …
Jay: Okay, and this was just pulled together through your network? Was it just your connections that you guys decided, “Oh, we know people.”, because you’re a media company so you’re not necessarily … I guess there is some overlap, but how did you pull it all together?
Marina: I think, yeah, because we worked pretty hard for the last year and we’ve been literally everywhere. Every small event they have we’re like, “Okay, here you go again. BeFast.TV [inaudible 00:23:36].” Then, of course, some of my people from network that I know, they said, “Okay, let’s do this because guys you know everyone. You know not only people from Asia but also know your people from Europe and from the Bay Area.”, and so we can bring some really celebrities from there to Hong Kong and to Asia. We are interested hearing what they saying, but at the same time it’s such a big interest for them. Asia is such a big interest for them because [inaudible 00:24:10], oh my god like China, Hong Kong and then all the bigger markets like Indonesia or Malaysia, they also want to be there because at some point the Western market saturated and all these celebrities they want to explore what’s going on here. We pitched our ability to host events and we want to bring value for the local market, for China market, for Hong Kong market saying like, “Okay, we know people. We can make out of this conference something really big and interesting and valuable.”
Jay: Yeah, I think it’s going to be something very unique, something very fresh. Can you give us any hints or clues as to what to expect when we show up at the event?
Marina: Absolutely, yeah. Even though we have just couple of hours and it’s an evening event, we’re still having a keynote speech. We will start with a explanation what is FashionTech. Then we will move forward to panel discussions where we’re going to put together different speakers from the fashion industry, FashionTech industry. We’re going to bring one startup, FashionTech startup, and then we’re going to bring some retail, e-commerce, and then some investors who invest in FashionTech and then we’re going to discuss what are the trends. Who are the disrupters and how we can disrupt the market and so on. The next panel discussion’s going to be about new materials and new fabrics. After that, we’re going to have the pitch session where different startups going to pitch about their devices or clothes on stage. We’re going to finish the whole event with a catwalk.
Jay: Oh man.
Marina: Yeah, well it’s still fashion, right? We have to have a runway [crosstalk 00:25:55].
Jay: That’s right. Come on, we have to have a runway. Okay, so for any of you listeners out there, if you’ve been on the mailing list or distribution you will have seen Marina’s, basically the flyer, and it’s a very evocative, very elegant, evocative, exciting design. I think that’s going to draw a big crowd. Obviously now that you’ve confirmed that there’s going to be a catwalk, I think it’s going to be crowded.
Marina: Well, our slogan for the event is let us make technology sexy again.
Jay: Amazing. That’s such a good slogan. Okay, awesome. I just have a few more questions for you Marina. We’re going to look to wrap up soon but 2017 what do you have in store? What’s the plans for BeFast? What are your goals?
Marina: Well, of course as I mentioned, we will try to push for the IOL media platform. We will be in touch with all the startups that we interview to get the updates from them because I think that’s very important to have the track on them. Maybe we can interview them again and if they, for example, are about to get funding and then we’re going to be the first media that know about this. It’s going to be pretty cool. At the same time, our video production house. Also I’m going to develop this part of the business and also on this point we’re looking at creating videos for those startups who want to be on crowdfunding campaigns, especially Western companies, Western startups who want to penetrate Asian markets. It’s still different, right? Cultural difference, how people in Asia accept all the videos. It’s different so we are going to offer them this expertise in terms of how to create videos for Asia. This is another thing. Of course, let’s see how it will go with events because we’re planning to have a followup FashionTech event in July.
Marina: Yeah, so these are the plans for 2017.
Jay: That’s great. Just going back quickly to what you were talking about with the startup campaigns. It’s like a Kickstarter or Indiegogo type thing. We spoke about this before so I find it very fascinating because if you’re trying to crowdfund your project and you are doing a short video for it, BeFast can help you but they can also help you repurpose that culturally so it is most effective in your target demographic, in Asia, right?
Jay: I think that’s actually very, very useful and I think that’s very smart that you guys are pursuing that. That’s great. Thank you for sharing that Marina. Just last two questions. First, now that you’ve been on the startup journey for a couple of years now, you did the corporate thing and now you’re at a startup, if you had one piece of advice for your fellow friends out there that are working at a startup, struggling, maybe you’re out there documenting their journey and you see them struggling as an entrepreneur, as a startup founder, what piece of advice would you give them?
Marina: I would say that you have to dare make it and let it happen. If you have some crazy ideas, just try it on. Try it on, give it to this idea please one week, a couple of weeks. If you don’t see that it’s working, okay, maybe something else. It’s getting in your habitual pattern. Okay, it doesn’t work but I move forward. Dare. Sometimes you have to be aggressive as well and dare be aggressive sometimes too. This is very important. At the same time, work to find your calmness and don’t stress out too much. I think it’s very important to have some hobbies. It’s not only about business. It’s not only about making this particular business [inaudible 00:29:48] happen. You have to have some distractions. Have your hobbies. Go to hiking, do sports, be healthy or look what you eat, diet, health stuff. At the same time, you have to make sure that you read some inspirational and motivational literature I would say. It really helps. Talk to people that also inspires you because we’re all human beings, right? And we all live in society. If you manage to create this circle of people that almost have set of mind, you motivate each other and get your energy from them and then you give some energy to them too. It’s very important to have some people around that you trust.
Jay: That’s a good point. I think that a couple things to touch on there from your advice is, first of all, as an entrepreneur you’re always going to have that sort of fear, the fear of failure. I’ve spoken to many very successful entrepreneurs and they still say that that’s something that never really goes away. Whenever you’re doing something out of your comfort zone or exploring something new, even if you’ve been wildly successful before, you’re still going to have fear. The fear of failure will always be there with you, right? It’s just how you manage it, right? Of course, like you said, you have to have outlet, you have to exercise or meditate or do stuff. It’s helpful for your creative process, right?
Finally, on your last point, I think that oftentimes as younger entrepreneurs you look around and you see all these people that have made great successes and you put them on a pedestal and you think, “Oh, they’re like gods. I could never be like that.”, but really at the end of the day they’re just human beings just like you and I. You’re an intelligent person, I can tell just by talking to you. I think if you’re of average, slightly better than average intelligence and you read a lot, like you say, and you just try hard, you hustle, I think that the sky’s the limit. It really is. A lot of it is psychological framework, framing your mind to be positive and being able to manage just those inner demons of fear that …
Marina: Everyone has bad and good days.
Jay: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a roller coaster for all startup founders. Awesome advice Marina. Thank you so much. Last question is where can people find you and connect with you?
Marina: Actually well, it’s pretty easy. If you go to befast.tv, our website, definitely you can find our contacts there, as well as my Twitter handle is marinabayasia, as well as Facebook is marinabayasia, LinkedIn marinabayasia.
Jay: Okay, marinabayasia across all three social media and the website is befast.tv. We’ll have that all linked up in the show notes. Thank you so much Marina. I really enjoyed having tonight’s chat with you and I’m very much looking forward to your event.
Marina: Absolutely, it’s a total pleasure talking to you Jay.
Jay: Yeah, great. Best of luck with the event and I’ll see you there.
Marina: See you. Thank you.
Jay: All right, take care.
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