Sydney-founded cloud-based digital marketing startup Sinorbis has secured $2.3 million in new funding to accelerate the growth of its efforts to help businesses in Australia and around the world tap into China’s growing consumer market.
The latest investment round brings the startups’ total funding raised to $3.9 million since it launched last year. The latest investment was led by the team behind advertising firm Executive Channel Holdings, which recently sold its Australian business to oOh! media for $68.5 million, with other investors also participating in the bridging round.
Sinorbis, which is expected to come out of beta and launch fully next month, provides a platform for businesses outside China to build a digital presence through the development of websites that are powered by search engine optimisation for Chinese sites, search engines and social media sites.
Among its first 10 clients are the University of Western Sydney, University of New South Wales and Bridestow Lavender Farm.
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Sinorbis co-founder and chief executive Nicolas Chu says China’s consumer market is becoming one of the largest in the world but the absence of Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and other popular digital platforms makes its online environment very “difficult” and “complicated” for non-local businesses to drive brand awareness in.
“I’ve been managing and leading online and tech businesses for the last 20 years, starting in Europe, working in the US then the Asia-Pacific,” Chu tells StartupSmart.
“What I have realised over the last ten years throughout my interactions with China is the explosion of demand for overseas products and services.”
According to Chu, “western companies” spend more than $6 billion ($US4.7 billion) on digital marketing in China but most of this is “misdirected or simply lost in translation”.
“Our technology will help better target this spend and be the catalyst to grow this market to nearly $US30 billion annually in the next decade,” he says.
“This represents the digital marketing spend of four different sectors: travel and tourism, real estate, higher education and consumer goods.”
Through Sinorbis’ cloud-based digital marketing platform, which also has education and consulting arms, Chu wants to close the gap between “Chinese demand and the rest of the world”.
“We are going through the full customer acquisition journey online and one thing that companies don’t realise is when they want to target Chinese consumers online, they have zero digital presence [in China],” he says.
When the Sinorbis platform launches, Chu says the key focus will be on enabling businesses to develop a digital presence with tools to track, measure and optimise site performance for the internet in China.
Later this year, the startup also plans to launch social media marketing features so businesses can drive awareness through channels like WeChat.
Chu believes Sinorbis, which is headquartered in Sydney and has offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Colombo, is one of the first ventures actively helping businesses outside China to break in through online marketing.
“While you have a lot of options on the e-commerce and retail side, if you want to sell you can either go directly through some of those retailers such as JD or Alibaba … or you can use channel managers … there’s no one trying to address what we’re doing, which is more that marketing side [and] giving tools,” he says.
This is one of the primary reasons Chu decided to raise capital again instead of bootstrapping the platform’s development. He says all of Sinorbis’ funding is being used to develop the platform’s technology.
“We’re really at the beginning, there won’t be another market like China,” he says.
“In four to five years’ time there will be many more players helping companies target this space.”
Chu will direct the latestt funding towards refining Sinorbis’ “customer acquisition model”, commercialising the platform and developing future versions of it.
“It’s very important to be in the market now,” he says.