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If you’re a young creative in Malaysia that has been job-seeking in the past couple of years, chances are you’ve heard of or even used Cult Creative.

The startup has been featured on Vulcan Post in its earlier days. At the time, it had launched as a job marketplace, specialising in roles for creatives, as many of them had lost their jobs during the pandemic.

But more than three years since its start, the platform has outgrown that label to become something bigger, which is one of the reasons why on November 14, Cult Creative announced that it would be sunsetting its app.

Image Credit; Cult Creative

Pivoting with a purpose

To be clear, this is just a closure of the app itself, not Cult Creative as a whole.

In a call with Shermaine Wong, the CEO of Cult Creative, she gave a brief summary of what Cult Creative set out to do in the beginning.

Their mission was for creatives to be empowered with opportunities, resources, and freedom, helping them achieve the three Ps—purpose, passion, and pay cheque.

Although the app was able fulfill its duty of matching companies to creatives or vice versa, Shermaine realised that the team lacked controlled over the “pay cheque” element in their mission.

Typically, after matching creatives to their jobs, Cult Creative was no longer be able to keep tabs on what happens next. But occasionally, they would hear back from some creatives that got jobs through their platforms saying they were underpaid, unpaid, or inconsistently paid.

Image Credit: Cult Creative

At the time, though, the app’s tech was very limited to serving as a job marketplace. There were no tools to properly track what came after the job match.

On top of the technological limitation, the team also noticed a change in the job market. During the pandemic, a lot of jobs were online, but since restrictions were lifted, more employers are looking for hybrid or on-site employees.

“While companies needed on-site, full-time employees, we realised that a lot of our creatives wanted gig work,” Shermaine said. “A lot of them were content creators, and they didn’t want to work full time. So there was a mismatch as well.”

So, with the limitations and mismatch in mind, Cult Creative decided to pivot.

Empowering creatives and educating brands

Starting in May 2023, Cult Creative began moving away from the identity of a job platform to more of a creator economy platform to help its 13,000 creators and 1,100 brands collaborate. The job portal still exists, but the team’s focus has shifted towards the creator economy side of things.

More than just bridging creators and brands, Cult Creative now plays a more involved role, offering additional tools and products for users.

A key complaint they heard from creators was that many didn’t have actual legal contracts and offer letters in place with brands.

Thus, the platform now features tools to generate legal agreements, clear brand briefs, and invoices, to help ensure they’re paid fairly and on time.

“I’m also protecting the brands as well,” Shermaine said. “As much as I talk about creators, we actually also help brands. We ensure the objective of the campaign and that whenever the creators submit their content, it’s on time and it’s on brand.”

Through insights from the brands on their platform, Cult Creative learnt that many of them, especially smaller ones, struggled to find content creators. And when they did have access to creators, they still didn’t know how or who to hire, and what to tell them to do.

Realising that brands needed education as well, Cult Creative has began hosting events such as the Small Business Summit.

Shermaine at Cult Creative’s Small Biz Summit

Despite not actively marketing the new service of connecting brands with creators, Shermaine reported that there are already brands on board, such as Supermama Lab and Pavilion KL.

“These are all connections that I had, and also the current brands that were already in our ecosystem using it,” she said.

A recent product the platform has rolled out is a subscription model starting at RM1,800 that lets brands work with four creators to make TikToks or Reels.

You might think that this service sounds similar to what influencer agencies do, but Shermaine believes that the creators on Cult Creative—who often come from backgrounds like social media managers, videographers, or other roles in the creative economy—better understand briefs, storytelling, hooks, and objectives.

Going forward, the Cult Creative brand will continue to help upskill creators, featuring content on how to score a brand deal, how to pitch a personal brand, and more.

Not the end of the story, just the start of a new chapter  

While reasons for their pivot are clear, a question that still remains is why the team decided to axe their mobile app, instead of repurposing it or updating it. After all, the CEO said that the last she checked, there were about 60,000 downloads for the app.

Shermaine herself also liked the app, but there was just too many limitations with the format. The team was constantly struggling just to get one feature across well.

To start the slate clean, the team decided to just shut down the app.

Believing that it was a wrong decision to go straight to mobile, Cult Creative will now be focusing on creating a good web portal first for their refreshed platform.

That platform is not ready yet, though. So, why close the app now?

To that, Shermaine said, “We realise that the optics, if we didn’t do this, would be quite unclear. People were still thinking of us as a job platform, whereas we’re actually growing to become a more creator-centric platform.”

The CEO told us that the team is currently in the midst of a fundraising round. If all goes well, creatives can expect to see the beta version of the web app in Q1 2024.

Shermaine said that regardless of the funding, though, the team would still go ahead and build the platform—it’d take longer, but it’s still doable.  

They’re already seeing positive results from the new pivot and realignment of their strategy and direction of the technology, she added.

Although the new platform is not out yet, Cult Creative is still actively working with creators and brands, just in a more manual way. Creators can still apply to join the platform via an Airtable form, and interested brands can schedule a call with the team.

  • Learn more about Cult Creative here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: NEXEA / Cult Creative

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)