Most VC deals are done in person—perhaps at a bar over a few drinks; some happen over a friendly game of golf; and there have even been stories of some legendary deals that were done after a first in-person meeting. Well, none of these stories were what it was like when Zaiko met Headline Asia during the peak of COVID in June 2020. When we first heard of Zaiko, we barely knew anyone from the team. In June 2020, our investment team found some red hot numbers popping out from our startup discovery engines. We looked into the details of the company and found out that it was a bunch of series entrepreneurs from the US and the UK behind one ultra fast-growing company. They had a mission: to help creators and artists in Japan, whether through COVID by enabling them to virtually organize shows, directly manage their fan bases, and monetize their talent to earn a living.
This E-Ticketing Platform Pivoted to Live Streams and Changed the Game
In 2019, the founders of Zaiko, Malek Nasser, Lauren Rose Kocher, and Joshua Barry wanted to create a modern platform that could greatly improve the experience of event ticketing for Japanese audiences. The business achieved some early successes but then the unexpected pandemic hit the company badly in early 2020 and killed the growth. The trio showed incredible resilience and pivoted the business immediately to live streaming—a brilliant move that changed the game.
In the time of a pandemic where in-person contact is prohibited, Zaiko found a way to offer a tech-enabled platform that allowed creators and artists to connect directly with their fans. The platform would deal with all the logistics behind organizing a performance or show: planning, promoting, ticketing, live streaming, and interacting; the artists simply need to sign up on the platform and they could start performing. Historically, creators and artists in Japan rely heavily on the middlemen agencies to handle ticketing and event organization. A significant portion of value created by the creators and artists therefore goes to those middlemen. Zaiko, however, cuts them out so that more of the profits from these sale go directly to the artist.
As VC, we always look for the businesses that can change the paradigm. In Japan’s entertainment market, a disruptor was desperately needed. It was evident that even a minor change could create major transformation there. However, the entertainment industry is a multiple billion dollar market in Japan, the third largest in the world, and is also one of the few sectors that is still growing steadily. Here in Headline Asia, we believe that what the e-commerce has done to shopping will eventually happen in the entertainment industry due to the pandemic, and Zaiko is positioned to fulfill the new demand created by this paradigm shift.
That’s why we were glad to lead Zaiko’s series-B and series-C rounds, and join them in empowering the creators and artists of Japan. The value Zaiko can bring to the society, now and the future, is enormous since it put those talented creators and artists in a position to change their lives and and touch the lives of people around them.