Hong Kong branded tech company Gusto Collective plans to expand to SG, Tokyo and Bangkok after recent fundraising [Q&A]
Gusto Collective, a Hong Kong-based BrandTech holding company that raised seed money and funds last month, is eyeing regional digital-forward cities like Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok for expansion.
“We started Gusto Collective with the vision of building a premier Pan-Asian BrandTech company. We are gradually realizing this vision. In terms of geographic footprint, we currently have large operations in Shanghai and Hong Kong,” said Aaron Lau , Chairman and CEO of Gusto Collective. Global TechNode in an interview. “Natural geographies for expansion are other digitally-forward regional cities like Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok, etc. The opportunity is simple: bring our cutting-edge technologies to new markets to create and shape the ‘next generation digital economy’.
Gusto Collective, which provides content production services, raised $11 million in its seed funding round led by Animoca Brands and Gaw Capital last month. The oversubscribed round also received participation from BlackPine, YCI Limited and several existing shareholders, including ClearVue Partners.
With the completion of this round, the company has raised $23 million in cumulative external funding since its launch in 2020. The funding will support Gusto Collective’s growth in geographic expansion into other parts of Asia; Web3 services and products and development of recurring revenue products.
Gusto Collective felt that Asia holds great potential for the development of Web3.
“We believe Asia has great potential with a young population, which is among the most digitally native in the world. Asia has one of the highest internet and gaming penetrations among this younger generation,” he said.
“For them, Web3 is just a natural evolution of their gaming experience. Additionally, Asian economies are creating a rapidly growing middle class that is hungry for amazing experiences, whether physical or digital. as such, it attracts multinational brands to the market to cater to this important audience with a “phygital” strategy, of which Web3 plays a major role,” he added.
Lau, felt that Web3 is also “intrinsically in the metaverse”, so not necessarily limited by geography like other mediums.
“For Web3, we think Asia ex-China is actually quite similar to the US and Europe. Mainland China obviously has the aspect that cryptocurrencies are not allowed, which makes the state of play more limited in terms of funding NFT purchases and participating in other crypto-ecosystems. For NFTs in particular, they are a bit more of an investment product in the US and Europe, whereas in Asia ex-China they are more like collectibles and markers of social identity,” he explained.
Founded in 2020 by Lau, the former CEO of marketing services company Cheil Worldwide (part of the Samsung Group), Gusto Collective focused on creating content and experiences using augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) technologies. The group consists of four specialties in Web3 Marketing Services, AR Experience Platform, Metahuman Platform and Luxury Marketing Services.
In the interview, Lau shared the company’s plans, his views on the potential of brand technology, and the development of Web3. He also shared his thoughts on the future of Web3 and the challenges facing the company.
Below is the edited excerpt:
For Web3 services and products, are there particular segments or sectors that Gusto Collective sees huge opportunities?
We believe that an essential part of what Web3 offers is to enable customer engagement through the creation of communities. To achieve our vision, we partner with brands on integrated solutions, which are often a combination of immersive technology and engaging stories or content, rather than specializing in one part of the product stack.
We have strong technical capabilities on Unity/Unreal, 3D modeling, front-end and back-end designs. But we built this team with a clear understanding that the best technology is a means to an end; not an end in itself. As such, we are truly storytellers, with a deep appreciation for technology. One example is our collaboration with One Cool Group, a leading entertainment company founded by actor and film producer Louis Koo.
For their upcoming summer blockbuster film “Warriors of Future”, we fused acting, entertainment and storytelling to extend the film’s engagement and value to the fan community. This partnership requires a very close collaboration on the product with the owner of the intellectual property, rather than a purely ad hoc commitment. This is a great example of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.
Can you share more details about the development of your recurring revenue product?
Our main recurring revenue products are 1) the 5G AR Lens, an advertising platform allowing brands to connect to their franchise with experiential AR content; 2) our metahuman platform, an IP platform that offers brand endorsements with digitally created humans to provide social engagement and brand collaborations, and 3) the Web3 virtual event platform, which is in development. We are in the process of launching our virtual art space, offering art exhibitions and events in the metaverse.
What kind of potential does Gusto Collective see in brand technology? How can it help businesses?
We see BrandTech or Web3 as a simple collective evolution in the creation of content and experiences between brands, consumers and creators. In creating this type of content and experiences, storytelling is the first link between a brand and its audience. With the younger generation, stories are increasingly fueled and empowered by technology. The advantage of Gusto Collective lies at the intersection between storytelling and technology. As such, we bring our connected specialties to create useful, entertaining and engaging experiences for the companies and brands we work with, creating “greater value” alongside our partners.
What challenges does Gusto Collective face?
Our main short-term challenges have been the constraints brought by the Covid pandemic, inability to travel easily, lockdowns, economic weakness, etc. In the meantime, in the long term, our main challenge is to find great talents – “Gustodians”, as well as partners and brands who share our same vision to create immersive and avant-garde products, especially since most Web3 projects are global. The work produced with our partners must support our world-class mission, regardless of borders or localities.
What other projects does Gusto Collective have soon?
We have imminent expansion plans for our Metahuman and Web3 specialties. Thanks to our metahuman specialization, we extend our geographic coverage across Asia. And, regarding our Web3 specialization, we will soon be announcing a partnership with a leading entertainment company to create metaverse assets to bridge Web3 and real-world experiences. To support our expansion, we will be announcing a number of senior executive hires in the coming weeks.
How would you describe the competition between start-ups in the Web 3.0 space? What is Gusto’s competitive advantage over others? How can the company differentiate itself and surpass others?
Web3 has many layers in its technology stack. But above all, I want to emphasize that the Web3 space is about decentralization and collaboration, even more so than Web2. We cooperate closely and creatively with our partners.
Basically, we want to improve the engagement and experience within the community with the underlying intellectual property owners. This works in favor of our competitive advantage, which is the ability to merge cutting-edge technology with compelling storytelling. Our team consists of over 120 “Gustodians”, whose blend of big-brand experiences, international aesthetics, technological expertise and deep market knowledge, combines a native digital understanding with world-class execution. – this is our advantage. While Web3 is certainly a noisy, fast-paced space flooded with announcements and updates, we are focused on the success of our customers and our products. This is and will always be our main differentiator.
In general, what is your opinion on the overall development of Web 3.0? (NFTs, Metaverse) How are Asian companies adopting this technology compared to those in the US or Europe? Where is Asia? Is there a gap between companies? Are Asian companies moving in tandem or even faster?
We believe that Asia holds great potential with a young population, which is among the most “digital natives” in the world. Asia has one of the highest internet and gaming penetration among this younger generation. For them, Web3 is just a natural evolution of their gaming experience. Additionally, Asian economies are creating a rapidly growing middle class that is hungry for amazing experiences, whether physical or digital. As such, it attracts multinational brands to
market to respond to this large audience with a “phygital” strategy, in which Web3 plays a major role.
Web3 is inherently in the metaverse, so not necessarily limited by geography like other media. For Web3, we believe that Asia, formerly China, is actually quite similar to the United States and Europe. Mainland China obviously has the aspect that cryptocurrencies are not allowed, which makes the state of play more limited in terms of funding NFT purchases and participating in other crypto-ecosystems.
For NFTs in particular, they are somewhat more of an investment product in the US and Europe, whereas in Asia excluding China, they are more like collectibles and markers of social identity.
How soon would Gusto Collective need to raise funds? A timeline and how much?
We recently closed and announced an $11 million financing, led by Animoca Brands and Gaw Capital. We are also very fortunate to be profitable both historically and currently, so there are no imminent plans or need to do additional fundraising at this time. We will be working on extensions that will create compelling value for our brand partners, our Gustodians and our shareholders, who believe in the vision we see in BrandTech and Web3.
Hong Kong’s Gusto Collective Completes $11M Funding Round