SOCIALICO – In A League Of Its Own
Founded by Keith Ng, 27, and Damon Widjaja, 26, FAME League is the first virtual stock exchange allows you to speculate on your friends’ popularity and fame and predicting outcomes in popular topics from sports to show business. Think of fantasy sports focused exchange Rotohog, or Hollywood-related HSX.com, but for people like you and me. The competitive virtual world even lets you to buy aesthetic assets with your virtual riches, earned through your spot-on predictions. Originally started as FAME, or FAmous Market Exchange, it was later rebranded as FAME League to emphasize the competitive nature of the game.
FAME League uses an in-house technology called EVE (Exchange Vectoring Engine) for simulating a stock exchange. The game works on the idea of a “prediction market“, where the wisdom of crowds come into play. Essentially, the value of a stock in such a virtual exchange is inherently tied to events that surround it, and hence its current market price can be interpreted as predictions on the probability of a certain event or the expected value of a certain parameter. Confused yet?
Interestingly, this also means that events on FAME League can help marketers understand social dynamics of various target audiences, as Singaporean Keith Ng points out. “Marketers today are faced with an increasingly difficult uphill task in competing for consumers’ attention,” he says. “By introducing the hybridized concept of prediction market and social gaming into social networks such as Facebook, FAME League aspires to enable modern day marketers to effectively measure the Gen-Y crowd’s sentiment, as well as draw (out) their interests.” SOCIALICO is currently in talks to run online campaigns with clients interested to promote products or events, or to conduct market research.
The Quest for FAME
Keith and Damon first met when they were studying for their Information Science degree in Singapore Management University (SMU), becoming fast friends. FAME League itself – like many other ideas – was first conceptualized over beer in a pub sometime ago, and finally went full-time operationally last February. Today, Keith handles the business development and marketing aspects for SOCIALICO while Damon, an Indonesian, takes care of the technical aspects.
Keith admits that things haven’t been smooth sailing – SOCIALICO has had to evolve their product over the months due to changes to Facebook‘s APIs, and they have struggled in trying to exploit viral marketing in social media without prior experience. Fundraising has been difficult as well – most notably there’s a perceived lack of substance in the product and/or management team, even being branded as a hype and a copycat. Thankfully, SOCIALICO has an initial funding of S$50,000 from Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA)‘s iJAM micro-funding scheme through SMU’s Athena Incubator last May, and a further S50,000 from SPRING Singapore’s YES! Startup grant. The startup’s mentor, Dr. Robert Bong (previously of Keppel T&T and Nortel Asia) also provided some angel funding. One of SOCIALICO‘s proudest achievements was when they were being chosen as one of the top 50 finalists in Facebook‘s fbFund in June 2009, as the only startup from Singapore and one of three from Asia.
The folks at SOCIALICO realize it is critical for them to expose their platform. One key strategy is to build relationships with partners in traditional and interactive digital media. To expand their user base, they have identified targeted advertising and social media campaigns as the major drivers. “We learnt one thing the hard way: traction is king. I could tell you how wonderful FAME League is, but without a 6,7 digit user base, we are (only) as good as an idea. Just save the effort in pitching to investors, and instead focus on the numbers.” Currently, FAME League has some 5,000 registered players.
Views on Entrepreneurship
“I would jump onto any job that could offer me lots of creative freedom, personal development opportunities, a shot at creating something fun and interesting people like, and not bind me at my desk,” shares Keith. “Starting SOCIALICO and FAME League happens to be the dream job that has these entitlements.”
Keith describes his entrepreneurial journey as a tiring and difficult one, but he says he’s glad to have fellow co-founder Damon along for the ride. “We ‘fire-walked’ from Day One, and stayed firm in our beliefs despite many cynics sneering at us on the side.”
“It is often said people show their true colors in such times, and our friendship has withstood the test well.”
Daniel Goh is the founder and chief editor of Young | Upstarts, as well as an F&B entrepreneur. Daniel has a background in public relations, and is interested in issues in entrepreneurship, small business, marketing, public relations and the online space. He can be reached at daniel [at] youngupstarts [dot] com.