Instead of buying expensivekaraoke equipment bundled with soon-to-be-outdated tunes, iKala reinvents karaoke via the internet so users can enjoy it on their Samsung and LG smart TVs, PCs, and mobile devices (iOS and Android)

How a Taiwanese Startup is Riding on Asia’s Karaoke Culture

August 2, 2013

by Willis Wee

Founded in 2007, Taiwan’s iKala is a cloud-based online karaoke service. Instead of buying expensivekaraoke equipment bundled with soon-to-be-outdated tunes, iKala reinvents karaoke via the internet so users can enjoy it on their Samsung and LG smart TVs, PCs, and mobile devices (iOS and Android). Today, iKala has grown to become a 36-person team, serving around 600,000 users and with about five percent of them paying NT$129 ($4.30) each month for its premium service to have full access to the song library (which includes several thousand tunes in Chinese and English). Alternatively, users can just pay $1 to sing for an entire day. On average, each user spends about 10 minutes a day singing and sharing their creations (users can also record and upload their singing). About half of them visit iKala on mobile and another half from the web.

iKala prides itself on having 100 percent legal music and it works with music labels and artists closely to license new tunes.

Connecting artists and music fans

What most people see is just the consumer facing side of iKala. But the startup also works directly with artists and music labels — what iKala calls as its B2B business model — to help them promote their music albums and events to its community of music fans. On average, iKala has one activity per week and has worked with many Chinese artists including heavyweight names like David Tao, Penny Tai, and Fish Leong.

In the future, iKala also looks to bring in pitch detection and a scoring system. The scoring system will be powered by iKala’s algorithm that measures the similarity between the voice of the original singer and the user’s.

When asked about iKala’s financial health, CEO and co-founder, Sega Cheng, declined to reveal revenue numbers but did say that the company’s cash balance is at a very healthy level. The company plans to expand its service to Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, all of which have a karaoke culture.

iKala has three angel investors and is not looking to raise more money at the moment. Sega explains that expansion doesn’t require the company to set up physical offices in Southeast Asia. Rather, it will work with local distribution partners like mobile carriers in each local market. The company aims to break even by the end of 2014.

Some folks might see similarities between iKala and China’s big hit karaoke app Changba. Yes, both are karaoke apps, but it is important to note that Changba isn’t working directly with music labels and artists, which means it could face legal issues along the way. For now, iKala looks to have the proper legal structure for expansion, which could put it ahead of the game.

You can give iKala a try on web and on your mobile (iOS and Android).

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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