I had the fortune of meeting Kun Gao, co-founder (together with Vu Nguyen) of CrunchyRoll (CR) on my recent trip to the Valley. I’d like to think we hit it off well the two times I was there in that month. I didn’t quite tell Kun enough of how much I liked their cool basement office at 340 Brannan Street in San Francisco – the see-through glass panes allowed plenty of light in, and just like most fun young start-ups that have yet to ballon in employee size, they had a nice LCD telly and a multitude of gaming consoles and equipment right smack at the entrance. The best part? They held hours reminiscent of my time at Wean Hall over at Carnegie Mellon, hacking away at my Computer Science assignment – nothing like skipping the peak hour traffics and sleeping until the sun is on to your butt eh?
I first heard about CrunchyRoll from an old friend of mine a year ago. I got tired of figuring out which stack of multi-gigabyte Naruto torrents I had to download to continue watching where I last left off, and was poking around for a better solution. The ‘CrunchyRoll’ name popped up several times – heck, my younger-by-4-years sister had been watching tonnes of stuff via CrunchyRoll months ahead of me. I found the interface too comic-ky (the font type was a tad childish) for me at first, although truth be had, work and life was taking its toll on me, and I couldn’t find the time to myself to poke around CrunchyRoll much.
Interestingly, Kun revealed that Singapore users represented a significant portion of their monthly traffic. To make sure, I popped by Alexa. Lo-and-behold, Singapore users represented 6.9% of CrunchyRoll’s traffic, behind USA and China. CrunchyRoll was also Singapore’s 20th most visited site, beating Singapore Pools (at 26th, more tech-savvy anime viewers than gamblers eh?), Flickr (30th) and SPH’s much-touted Stomp.com.sg (74th).
Then again, CrunchyRoll’s popularity shouldn’t come as such a surprise – Singaporeans are known to want things cheap (in this case, free!) and good. Furthermore, Singaporean youths seem to prefer indulging themselves in Japanese culture/lore – anime, manga, cosplay, Hello Kitty, etc. A quick trip to the Toy and Comic Convention earlier this year in June, and the upcoming Anime Festival Asia 2008 on 22 – 23 November shows heavy Japanese anime/manga/cosplay influences. There was a Natsu Matsuri held at the Singapore Japanese School in August this year. Earlier today, I was at Wisma Atria today, and saw a bunch of local teenagers dressed up in skimpy Japanese schoolwear stream by.
Of course, for obvious reasons, I can’t reveal commercially sensitive information regarding my discussion with CrunchyRoll. Suffice to say that the backlash received from irate users and others borne by the CR team in their quest to turn legit and mainstream will not be for nought in the end. Traditional content owners back in Japan are rapidly realizing how little time youths spend in front of the television, and are scrambling to find alternative platforms that will allow them to get their content and brands out, while retaining control. It is probably also safe to assume that they are also generally clueless about the increasingly social web. All of the above are voids that someone like CrunchyRoll can fill, as they (hopefully) laugh their way to the bank, hand in hand with Venrock.
I was trying to log in to my CrunchyRoll account earlier, but forgot my user name. The reminder email brought a smile to my face.
your username for crunchyroll is “xxxx”. stop forgetting your username, it makes me sad 🙁
Cheers to you and your team, Kun, and a belated Happy Halloween’s!