There are roughly 7 million overseas Chinese living in North America. Amid the struggles of learning a new language, culture and way of life, these millions of Chinese-born residents often lack access to native Chinese content like music and storytelling.
To connect them with their favorite forms of entertainment, and feel less isolated in a foreign country, a Chicago startup has built a Pandora-like radio app that provides 24/7 access to music and stories from their native country.
Quantum Music launched in November 2017 and curates high-quality music and storytelling programs that are played throughout the day for overseas Chinese people to connect with their home culture. With a lot of content that originates from China geo-blocked and inaccessible in America, Quantum Music provides a connection for people to access entertainment that they otherwise could never get, CEO and founder Quan Zhang said.
“A lot of these people feel lonely—emotionally and culturally,” Zhang said. “They feel like they’re detached from mainstream society, both in China and [in the U.S] … It’s very difficult to get access to native Chinese content, even if they want to pay for it.”
Zhang came to the United States from China in 2004 to get his PhD in physics from the University of Chicago. He eventually transitioned to the venture capital world, working as an investor at Guild Capital where he led investments in startups like Home Chef and Mystery Tackle Box. His work in the startup world, plus his desire to connect with Chinese content, led him to launching Quantum Music.
Quantum Music is built within the WeChat Mini program, which is an ecosystem of apps that live within the popular international messaging service. WeChat users can access Quantum Music’s content of music and stories right within the app.
Quantum Music, which has a co-headquarters in China, produces its own stories in its Shanghai recording studio. Using a team of nearly 100 freelancers, Quantum Music curates stories designed to highlight specific challenges of the overseas community, such as finding a job and navigating the North American business world. Programming consists of 30-minute programs that run 24/7, mixing both original stories and music that Quantum licenses.
Since launching less than six month ago, Zhang says the startup has a couple thousand users, and it’s planning to expand to both Australia and Europe. It’s eyeing several different revenue strategies, such as a subscription model, advertising, in-app tipping and artist promotion. The company has raised about $400,000 in outside funding to date.
Zhang believes Quantum Music is the first-mover in a potentially $1 billion market that’s only growing. The overseas Chinese population segment is growing at 4 percent per year in North America, and it’s projecting to surpass 8 million people by 2020, he said.
The opportunity to build a sustainable business is there, Zhang says, and so is the chance to bring meaningful content to Chinese people living away from home.
“These stories keep reminding our users that yes, you’re experiencing a different culture. You’re struggling sometimes. But you’re not alone.”