11 years ago, Jazz Tan was a 14-year-old who indulged in her fair share of being a teenager in the early 2000s. But when her father was murdered, in connection with alleged mafia activities, the weight of the world fell on her shoulders.
“I had to grow up faster than anybody else,” she said, over the phone, in a shaky voice. “We were financially dependent on my dad… I had to start working at a very young age.”
“But I’m very passionate about doing this. I run a lot of youth projects, and these events have helped fund my way through high school and through college,” she added, quickly bringing the conversation back to YouthsToday, the company she started in April 2013 to help youths get sponsorship for events.
The company today announced that it has received $250,000 in a seed round led by Gobi Partners.
Earlier, Tan would plan youth events, seek cash sponsorships from companies, reach out to students to participate, and fund her studies through such means. All these would be done manually.
In Southeast Asia, where more than 50 per cent of its population is under the age of 30, many companies see the value of sponsoring youth events that will in turn improve its brand image among young people, whom the firms would like to recruit as well.
However, what Tan came to realise was that most corporates don’t want to fund a youth event that will see a small turnout. “Instead of getting their event to 50-100 people – corporates are not interested – what if we combined 100 projects with 100 people and package it as one to sell to corporates to fund all these student activities?” she explained, when talking about the idea behind the venture.
The company also provides brands and universities with opportunities to run targeted surveys and market intelligence services, as well as marketing campaigns and social media services.
YouthsToday takes a10 per cent cut from each sponsorship matched.
Claiming to be cash-flow positive, and making 50,000 to 60,000 MYR every month, the company will use the new funds to expand overseas – to Philippines and Indonesia specifically, she said.
Tan noted that there are already “a few thousand” users from those two countries.
Additionally, funds will also be used to optimise its tech operations, increase its outreach efforts to youth audiences and bring on more brand partners.
As of March 2016, the company claims to have more than 40,000 youth event organisers on the platform. It is also endorsed by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education as a preferred extracurricular partner for more than 60 universities and 300 student clubs in Malaysia, the company said in a statement.
YouthsToday further added that it was working with 50 brand partners including Maybank, Sony and KFC.
“YouthsToday offers brands a targeted opportunity to reach out to young audiences and customers, which may be otherwise unavailable,” said Victor Chua, Investment Director, Gobi Partners.
Chua added, “As a company led and staffed by young people, the YouthsToday team understands their peers better than anyone else. By being able to connect and motivate student groups, they help brands achieve their sponsorship objectives, while also creating funding opportunities for exciting and engaging youth activities.”
According to Tan, over the next 12 months, users of YouthsToday will be able to look forward to more tools, like a mentorship programme that will allow event organisers to request content from top CEOs and other inspiring individuals who would be interested in speaking to youths.
Prior to this round of financing, YouthsToday received an angel investment of MYR 150,000 (now $37,027) from Cradle Fund, according to a report.