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The New Media Moguls of Southeast Asia: VAV Apps

This start-up lets brands engage with customers through inaudible soundwaves

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 27 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Imagine watching a football match when suddenly you get an alert on your smartphone with a coupon to buy the latest football shoes you’ve been eyeing on the feet of the players on the pitch. Or you’re at a restaurant and as soon as you’re seated you instantly receive the e-menu, plus an order form, all without having a waiter attend to your table.

These are two scenarios that Alden Leong Qi Wen envisions his start-up, VAV, will make possible. VAV (pronounced as “wave”) is a young Malaysian start-up that seeks to disrupt the business of advertising by using sound to deliver digital content to smartphones.

“We wanted to start VAV because we believe the world should be more interactive and sound should be used as a two-way communication platform,” says the 24-year-old founder and chief strategy officer.

Alden Leong Qi Wen & Addie Leong Qi Jie, Co-founders of VAV

VAV was founded by Leong in 2015, along with his twin brother Addie, the chief marketing officer, and Wan Kamarul Zaman Bin Wan Yaacob, the executive chairman. After graduating from IACT College in Petaling Jaya, the twin brothers worked for separate advertising agencies, but had always wanted to build their own tech start-up. At first they worked on VAV only after working hours and on weekends, until they eventually decided to take the leap and work on their company full time. Leong admits they are only just beginning, with a staff of about 12 handling a small number of clients and partners, including Maybank and commercial music player MusixMusix.

In January, the company raised about $590,000 in funding from Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (ADIF), which is managed by Intres Capital Partners. The company intends to use this to accelerate the technology’s commercialization in Malaysia and to explore overseas markets.

Being a new company, the brothers struggled with getting the market to understand the possibilities of their technology, which include VAV Tone, an inaudible audio signal that can be embedded into any music or video soundtrack to trigger a call-to-action to multimedia content in a mobile device; VAV SDK, a software development kit that can be plugged-in into a mobile application on either iOS or Android operating system; and VAV Online Control Panel, an online management software system to edit, manage, schedule, and track any VAV Content to be triggered by the VAV Tone.

“We need to spend time to educate the market and this, we’ve realized, takes time.” Leong says.

But Leong is undeterred. He explains that by delivering digital content to the user’s smartphone, VAV opens up a world of sound-media possibilities for businesses to accelerate their brand engagement through sound.

Not without the users’ consent, though, because in order to receive content they would have to first turn on the app of, say, a brand, embedded with VAV’s technology. Leong emphasizes that they do not design technology that can stealthily access a phone’s microphone.

For large events, Leong says the company earns from licensing their technology. “During the event, brands are able to utilize their speakers to send promotional information and vouchers, or an artist can send a link to buy his or her album, all with the ease of playing a song,” Leong says.
To advertisers, VAV’s technology may turn out to be a profitable tune.

VAV APP IN ACTION, Inaudible food noises from TV heard by the phone.

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