This late afternoon, I was about to leave the last section of Tech in Asia Start-up conference – then a group of 2 men walked into the stage and started to present their business idea – “we are creating a dating site for gay”. I stopped. The conference had some noises. Then the audience started to applaud and the atmosphere got excited.
The site is Xunta, founded by Sense Lou, previously a Baidu engineer, with his other 5 fellows. To its core, the business is not that big to catch everyone’s eye. Up to date, Xunta currently has approximately 60,000 members with a near projection of 500,000 active users. If 5% premium users that each pay $29 per year; those 500,000 users can only bring about $725,000 in annual revenue. Yet, from market perspective, there are two attractive angles to care about this business: (1) there are 30 million gays in China, and (2) because this is a sensitive market, it seems to be very neglected and no other website has the same clean and crisp design. Now things changed: if Xunta can be fast and be number one, and the market is 5% of 30 million with $29/year subscription fee, it will have a chance for a good share of a $43 million market – and this can be a fast shot. However, the thing that caught my eye the most was – wow, the business world is getting so humane.
What I like the most about capitalism, in theory, is that the invisible hand can be an effective way to distribute wealth in the society. At least the free-market regime should do it better than the will of dictators and/or asset allocation planned by the governments – such as what Russia did before 1991 and currently still employed by North Korea and Cuba. The activeness of entrepreneurs are pushing the markets to beyond many of its limitations. I don’t know if just 10 years ago who gave a damn care about gay dating. I think of the US is still in debates of if gay marriage should be legalized. Then I think of a country such as China with thousands year of Confucius influence now has public gay dating websites and those founders were talking passionately about their business in a conference in Singapore with audiences from the rest of the world. My head couldn’t stop spinning around to contain all of those ideas.
It’s interesting that from my experience, the two world of business and non-business is crossing each other. In 2007, 2008, and 2009 I saw those two are very separated. NGOs were doing social projects and business were focusing on making profit. Yet, now, my NGOs’ friends from all over the world: Italy, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, etc are shifting toward business side, meanwhile a lot of business ideas that I know are aiming to previously-non-existing markets that based on social issues that may or may not be obvious. Those all of the niche and tail segments that used to be forgotten now are being dig up, discovered, explored, and dreamed to monetize. I really think that even though business has been and will be moving around the extremes of solving social issues and exploiting every extract-able profit, more balance approaches that can serve for social causes with a more fair profit and capital gain sharing between stakeholders should be converge in the future. The people should not be in difficult choice between doing business and making money OR doing social projects and serving for a good cause.
There will be a long time to go for a major share of the business to have a better profit and gain sharing among all of the stakeholders. But for the time being, I will be more than happy to continue seeing all of the hidden markets to be explored and lightened up. In the end, we may doubt that if those discoveries are a flash in time or something that are more maturely served. I think it is way depends on those who find and work the market out. Thus, understanding the needs of customers and social causes can be even much more important to business savviness. For Xunta, it gained much more of my confidence by those last words explained the existence of the site and its root for understanding the target market: “… because six of us – are – gays.” (conference-wide applause).
1:30 AM – Apr 5th 2013, Kallang, Singapore