Meet CLEO Hot Shot 2018: Foong Yuh Wen

FOONG YUH WEN, 33, CEO of SushiVid

Denim bomber, Levi’s, dress, Yuh Wen’s own.

Yuh Wen was on a journey of self-discovery when she found her passion in technology by creating startup self-serve platform SushiVid, which help brands find, hire and work with social media influencers for marketing campaigns. In only two and a half years, her company has worked with over 400 brands and they’ve launched over 2,000 branded content across Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and blogs.

Tell us a little bit about what you do. Briefly tell us about the journey to – and within – SushiVid?

I am the founder of a startup; SushiVid. We help brands find, hire and work with social media influencers for marketing campaigns through our self-serve platform. I graduated in finance but decided that it wasn’t my passion after a short stint as an equity research analyst. I went on a journey to discover myself, from acting to social work and I finally found it in technology.

SushiVid is a mix of everything I am passionate about. I’m passionate about creators as I personally dabbled in it for two years, acting for film and TV — it was so hard because the market is just so inefficient. Imagine having to go for castings two to three times a week, at different locations all the time, queuing up at the production house only to get a shot at it for two mins and then they send you off without giving any feedback? Now, with technology, you don’t even need to have to get a professional videographer or photographer anymore, just use your phone and upload it to YouTube or Instagram!

The market for creators have changed so much that it’s simply so exciting to be in this space! With the power of technology, I can do so much more for our creators. This is when the idea came to fruition. I created SushiVid, a marketplace that connects creators to brands directly for sponsorships and I’m just really blessed. The brands are embracing us with open arms.

How do you answer the question of whether women lead differently than men?

Definitely, I feel female founders lead with more empathy. I’m quite the alpha but even then, I feel that I am much more driven by emotion and more in tune with my instincts than any male founders.

Did you overcome any gender-related roadblocks in your career?

When I started my career in the banks, I was much younger. I often felt the need to go out with fellow bankers and clients and feel awful the next day, because I wasn’t brave enough to refuse then. But as I grew older, I feel more empowered to say no. I just don’t entertain drinking sessions or invitations anymore, if I don’t feel like it.

What are the failures that you most cherish?

I was at the bottom of the value chain for seven years jumping between industries trying to find my destiny and I never got a bonus because I just kept moving about. Then in 2012, after my time in acting, I went into depression.

I remember the day I woke up in the hospital, a church friend was by my side, he walked me out of that depression day after day. At that lowest point, it really felt like life couldn’t get any worser. I think I needed that to happen. Because it was then, I humbled myself and became a new person.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

There is definitely less women who are tech founders, coders, and creators in tech, and I believe change needs to happen from young. Parents tend to buy dolls for girls and toy cars for boys but we should change that because we are the product of our upbringing and conditioning. If we want more women who codes, we should buy a variety of toys for them from young, not just girlie toys.

What is empowerment, to you?

Empowerment means freedom to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. In my case, learning how to code has empowered and enabled me to pursue this path of tech entrepreneurship.

In two and a half years, we have worked with over 400 brands and have launched over 2,000 branded content across Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and blogs.

– Yuh Wen on SushiVid.

What are some of the rising trends in the influencer market that you’ve noticed? 

There is a shift to more long form content — videos. Photos and Instagram shots are still selling like hot cakes right now but even Instagram is favouring video content, as they launched a new feature supporting videos longer than one minute. TikTok and are also video-based, albeit only being 15 seconds. Even professional site LinkedIn supports videos today, something that they only began rolling out late last year to selected users.

What is the most important business or other discovery you’ve made in the past year? Why?

Results are not instantaneous. Just as the going gets hard, dig your heels in and keep going. Last year, it was a very bad year for us at SushiVid. We kept on pitching for deals, we sent out over 100 proposals but they didn’t convert into sales. At one point, I even started to take other developing and marketing jobs to keep the team together but somehow this year, people started referring us to others, deals started to close and we are doubling our traction month-on-month. It takes time for people to understand what we do and for people to accept the changes and new technologies. We just have to brace ourselves in the dry months and stay prudent in the good months.


Special thanks to Alila Bangsar for venue assistance during the whole production.
Official sponsors: Wet n Wild Malaysia and Sasa Malaysia.