CHOCOLABS, a Taiwan Startup Success Story

CHOCOLABS, a Taiwan Startup Success Story

What you need to know

Ten questions with the co-founder of Taiwan's successful app developer CHOCOLABS.

Meet David Liu (劉于遜), co-founder and chief executive of fast-growing popular lifestyle app developer and new media content provider CHOCOLABS.

The News Lens International (TNLI): What is the origin of CHOCOLABS and when did you come up with the idea for the business? Can you briefly describe what CHOCOLABS does?

David Liu:
The brand CHOCOLABS was established in 2013. Originally, we wanted to build a living area connected with apps, providing users with services including food, clothing, accommodation and commuting. We hope that after the users download one of the products in the app, they can reach more within the same category. In addition, we hope that CHOCOLABS is the first brand that comes to the users' mind when they need a new product to satisfy their daily life. As the popularity of smartphones grows, the platform CHOCO TV, which provides free online TV drama series, was born. Since 2015, CHOCOLABS has been focusing on promoting and operating the OTT (over-the-top) service in Taiwan, including Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean TV dramas.

TNLI: What is the current company status, including the scale, employees, user numbers, their nationalities and products?

The company currently has 70 employees, including 53 full-time workers and 17 interns. The team has launched more than 62 apps, including CHOCO TV, iMusee, YouBike, Read News within 10 Sec and so on. Our monthly active users account for more than 1.8 million and the download volume has surpassed 12 million. The main product we now focusing on promoting is CHOCO TV.

TNLI: What do you regard as the key for CHOCOLABS to have achieved such huge number of users? Among all products, is CHOCO TV that CHOCOLABS concentrates the most? What is the reason for CHOCOLABS to choose it?

We have always viewed ourselves as a technological and digital company. Our advantages are the knowledge and skills accumulated these years, including the backend operation after data collection, user feedback, the analyzing abilities and so on. By doing so, we are able to optimize the platforms and the product functions according to user experiences and the market trends. We want to keep improving the functionality and attract more users, boosting the popularity of our brand.

The main product we are focusing on promoting is CHOCO TV. Among all the apps, we found out that those related to drama broadcasting is the most popular among customers. Therefore, since 2015, we have been emphasizing the products related to drama series and have cooperated with several platforms as well as developed several techniques within only two years. As the users’ stickiness increases, we have also collected a great amount of data and developed an automatic analysis system to improve the function of the product. On the other hand, comparing to other products, CHOCO TV ranks highest in terms of usage hours and stability, making its potential easier to be transformed to real economic benefits.

TNLI: There are lots of respectable competitors in the OTT content industry, can you share an overview of it? Further, what makes CHOCO TV different from other online content service businesses

Since OTT has become the most popular term in 2016 in the drama and media industry, service providers have been competing to share a piece of the pie. CHOCO TV also cannot be left out.

Comparing to most of the competitors, CHOCO TV has a smaller scale in terms of capital and workforce. Therefore, we need to be very prudent when making decisions and applying strategies. Our biggest challenge is always making the right decision at the first moment. The team has spent a period of time testing different stages of our products and optimizing them. These experiences are our most valuable assets, making us better at analyzing the data precisely and making long-term plans based on the market information. Currently, our company is able to react to most of the difficult situations.

As for the products, we are now putting much effort into building loyal users. Besides online drama services provided in CHOCO TV, to make users more dependent on the app, an e-commerce (EC) department was also established, allowing users to purchase merchandises of the TV dramas they like in the app.

Speaking of content, we also try different content to broaden our user base. Aside from cooperating with major content providers and TV channels, we also produce our own dramas. There is some content the major producers would like to generate but are unable to due to their business strategies. CHOCO TV is more than willing to take the responsibility of producing such content, maximizing the feature of online media platforms. By doing so, the brand image of CHOCO TV can also be promoted.

We are not just an OTT platform but a smart OTT platform. We aim to select the best content and deliver to the target audience. To put it simply, although CHOCO TV does not provide all of the content, we are confident that the selection within the app includes all of the best content.

TNLI: What is the future plan for CHOCO TV?

As we have mentioned, CHOCO TV is not about giving all of the options to the users. Instead, we select content which gives the highest return on investment based on big-data analysis and market observation. We also anticipate bringing in non-mainstream products to encourage competition and the production of better content. We believe this move can promote the quality of the content in the media industry. Drama series about trending topics will continue to strengthen the interaction between audience and the platform. Furthermore, we hope to cultivate the audience’s appetite by selecting great online content abroad, including those from China and Korea. All good content has its niche point and CHOCO TV’s goal is to recognize them within every product.

TNLI: What have been the biggest challenges for CHOCOLABS so far? How does CHOCOLABS solve it?

Every stage of our growth is a challenge to the company. I personally love to record the evolution of CHOCOLABS with the following different stages. In the first stage, when CHOCOLABS 1.0 was first launched, we spent much time on developing new products to meet the market’s needs. However, after one to two years, we discovered that the resources we invested in the market did not return as expected. So, we modified the business model and analyzed the results of every decision we made.

Among all kinds of products, we selected music and drama as our targets to develop deeper, which was the turning point for our company to move to the second stage, CHOCOLABS 2.0. During the period, the company’s profit increased and the scale began to expand; however, such changes were also accompanied with challenges, such as communication between different departments and maintaining quality control.

After gradually overcoming some of the above-mentioned difficulties, we are approaching the CHOCOLABS 3.0 stage. We never stop optimizing the platform. OTT is a harsh war and we are striving to stand out in the competition by creating a unique brand image and value. We keep modifying our strategies so we can adapt to all possible challenges in front of us.

TNLI: Will CHOCOLABS expand itself to be an international business?

Yes, we will. For the past three years we have been looking at the Southeast Asian market. Countries including Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines are all on our list. In the beginning, we tested the market potential from Taiwan. Last year, the Singapore branch was finally established to operate the media product CHOCOBEE, which provides lifestyle videos. Before the end of 2016, its users have already passed 500,000 and the app was on both the iOS and Android platform. Currently, the company has five employees from Southeast Asia who are in charge of strengthening cooperation with content providers and advertising agencies in the region. The Southeast Asian version of CHOCO TV, the main product in Taiwan, will also be launched in 2017.

Editor: Edward White