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Silicon Valley VC firm invests in Taiwanese culinary-lifestyle website

An American venture capital fund will invest hundreds of thousands US dollars in a Chinese-language culinary and lifestyle website based in Taiwan, helping it develop original content and integrated marketing.

Cherubic Ventures committed the funding in early August to the year-old website HowLiving as the founder shaped up as an Internet celebrity with brand value.

Founder Katie Hsieh had taken an interest since 2011 in sharing recipes, and her social media presence grew steadily. Original video content and social media relationships built Hsieh into an opinion leader with nearly 400,000 followers on Facebook as well as 1.5 million active users per day across social media platforms and websites.

HowLiving puts videos, editorials, event notices and books online along with options to buy and sell related merchandise such as kitchen appliances.

It collaborates with mainland Chinese video streaming and e-commerce giants Tudou Youku and Alibaba’s Taobao to enlarge the Mandarin Chinese-literate audience and integrate sales channels.

HowLiving shows, for example, an 87-second video on making black sugar tapioca and a 41-second spot on preparing matcha cheese and crème brulee cake. Videos come with instructions, some in English, and advertisements for cooking gear. In a clip on making pink lemonade, a girl narrates instructions in English.

With the venture capital funding, HowLiving will specialize its content for different Chinese-literate audiences, for example, fusion cooks in North America and Southeast Asian cuisine for Malaysia and Singapore.

The venture capital will also be used to develop live streaming and marketing through the tailor-made content. Live streaming could be done as a reality show ideal for social media, Hsieh has said.

“It is a good lead for product merchandise and branding,” she said.

Internet businesses in general may succeed if they use online celebraties as brands, effectively becoming intellectual property.

Intellectual property created by Internet celebrities is driving venture capitalists’ investment, the Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post says.

Venture capital firms see the cyberstar-intellectual property link as potential growth opportunity and a self-sustaining business model.

“The economy of the Internet celebrity is emerging through its core value -- intellectual property -- and this is a main reason we invested in HowLiving,” Cherubic Ventures partner and founder Matt Cheng said.

Cherubic Ventures was founded in 2010 and has about around 80 seeded startups in its portfolio, primarily in the Silicon Valley and greater China.

Pinkoi, an online marketplace for designers in Asia, and the live broadcasting platform are also among the Taiwanese firms.

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