Ji Shisan: What Makes 42-Day-Old Knowledge Sharing Platform Fenda Worth $100 Million?

摘要: Recnetly, audio-based knowledge sharing platform Fenda has raised $25 million in Series A funding from venture fund investors Vision Plus Capital and Sequoia Capital. What has Fenda achieved? What makes 42-day-old Fenda worth $100 Million? What are the challenges for Fenda in the future?

(Chinese Version)

The past month witnessed the sudden craze in China for Fenda, an audio-based knowledge sharing Q&A platform where users could pay a certain amount of money (from RMB0.5 to over RMB5,000) whether to ask questions or “eavesdrop” answers to questions they are interested in. While people who answered questions can make money by answering questions via voice messages, people whose questions are answered and “eavesdropped” by others can also earn a share of the money.

The reason for Fenda’s success varies: its’ more "lightweight" compared to its competitor Zhihu (it’s certainly easier to answer questions via 60-second or shorter voice message than lengthy and complete articles), users can earn a share of the money if their questions are answered, found interesting and “eavesdropped” by many other users, and lots of internet celebrities joined the platform and opened their own channels.

“The product itself, product operation and internet celebrities account for 10%, 60% and 30%, respectively, to the success of Fenda,” some people once analyzed.

Where is Fenda heading for? Will Fenda maintain its popularity in the future? On June, 27th, Ji Shisan, founder and CEO of Fenda's parent company Guokr, revealed to public for the first time the business plan and financing progress of Fenda in a press conference.

To everyone’s amazement, Wang Sicong, son of China’s richest man and Dalian Wanda Group chairman Wang Jianlin, also invested in the round. Previously, Mr. Wang also joined Fenda and earned more than RMB 240,000 (around $36,600) by answering 32 questions (such as: What kind of girl do you like?) within less than two weeks.

What has Fenda achieved?

On June, 27th, 42 days after Fenda was launched, Mr. Ji revealed to the public what achievement had been made by Fenda.

According to Fenda’s official statistics, the platform already had more than 10 million registered users, including 1 million who paid. Almost 330,000 professionals in various industries have opened channels on Fenda, and over 500,000 voice answers had been created. In addition, the total transaction volume had reached RMB 18 million ($2.71 million), and the repeat purchase rate has reached 43%. In the past week, over 190,000 “eardrop” orders were made every day. A day before the press conference, Fenda officially launched its iOS version app.

Two weeks before the press conference, it was announced that Fenda and its original model Zaih had together raised $25 million in Series A funding from venture fund investors including Vision Plus Capital, Sequoia Capital, Wang Sicong, Luojisiwei, etc. The round values Fenda at a staggering $100 million. Previously, venture fund investors such as Kunlun Group’s CEO Zhou Yahui, Alpha Community as well as Xiaomi Technology’s co-founder Li Wanqiang all joined the pre-A round of financing of Zaih.

For a 42-day old startup, such achievement was already quite overwhelming. In the eyes of Mr. Ji, Fenda succeeded has to do with not only the creative ideas behind Fenda, but also the right timing.

For Mr. Ji, Guokr’s Fenda, Luojisiwei’s audio-based paid platform Dedao and Ma Dong’s “Haohaoshuohua” (which literally means “to speak wisely”) all adapted to the current trend:

  • Above all, Chinese users begin to be willing to pay for knowledge, which might be one symbol of the consumption upgrading in China.
  • In addition, the past five years witnessed the rise of sharing economy in China. Gradualy, all kinds of information and transaction can be transferred and completed online, from hailing cars to selling and buying cars, houses, etc.
  • In this background, knowledge began to be transferred and shared more easily via the internet. But in the past, knowledge is only shared for free. However, in the past two years, we began to figure out ways to help people make profit by sharing knowledge.

To a degree, it is the gradual metamorphosis of the Chinese internet world that led to the success of audio-based and paid content sharing startup projects such as Fenda. But my questions are: what problems has Fenda helps its users to solve? How can such platforms maintain popularity in the long run?

What are the challenges in the future?

First of all, I am not surprised that Fenda and Zaih are integrated together. In the press conference, Mr. Ji explained how his team managed to combine these two platforms together smoothly.

On the one hand, Fenda kept functions such as “Cover”, “Withdraw” and “Follow-up”, so that Fenda users can have a comprehensive experience Fenda’s 60-second Q&A system; on the other hand, if Fenda users are not satisfied with 60-second Q&A, they can have a 15-minute live chat with channel owners and have a thorough discussion. In the future, they can even arrange one-to-one offline meeting if they want personalized knowledge sharing service. These services were previously all provided on Zaih.

In the press conference, Mr. Ji suggested that he was very confident of the future of “knowledge service” He added that his team upheld concepts such as “knowledge is service”, “knowledge should be shared in a more personalized, individual-based and customized manner”. Fenda succeeded because it met users’ need for knowledge sharing, but if they want more, they can just turn to Zaih.

However, the larger problem is: how can Fenda keep high user activity without Big Vs, in other words extremely popular internet celebrities?

Mr. Ji admitted that internet celebrities and entertainment stars brought much of Fenda’s traffic and might misguide Fenda’s team with false prosperity. To have a more accurate understanding of Fenda’s popularity, Fenda’s team would exclude extreme cases when calculating Fenda’s traffic. After all, it’s pretty hard to always have big Vs answering questions on Fenda, so the next goal of Fenda’s team will be to ensure that there are medium Vs (who are not as popular as big Vs but still famous among a certain group of people) answering questions in all different fields of knowledge.

According to Fenda’s official statistics, the overall answer rate on Fenda is 39%, but when entertainment stars are excluded, the answer rate is actually 50%. This figure is even higher in different fields of knowledge. For example, the average answer rate in medical filed is 60%, and in work&career field, it’s as high as 83%.

“We expect to see that average answer rate in other field as high as that in medical and work&career filed. When there are professional people answering questions in all different fields on Fenda, traffic will be divided more properly, and value will be balanced more easily,” Mr. Ji explained.

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[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Han Pei, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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