You probably have uploaded or downloaded something from a CowTransfer link within the last week, if not today or even an hour ago. With the common grandeur of startup promises, the platform claims to provide “the most efficient and user-friendly online file transfer service on this planet”. Only they do deliver what’s promised! Easy file transfer in 3 clicks, with no jumping through registration hoops to start using the service, and most importantly — speed, speed, speed. Not surprising that it has caught on so quickly, especially among creatives in Shanghai. We’ve met with the company’s Founder & CEO Chen Zhang and Creative Director Lucas Debrock to learn more about CowTransfer.
张晨 Zhang Chen & Lucas Debrock
If you’re wondering about the name “Cow”, the story is quite short, but personal. Chen’s brainchild takes its name inspiration from his wife’s nickname. The ‘cow’, while that sounds funny its actually a term of endearment. A beloved label the company continues to use with other services already in the making… but we’ll get to it later.
To start with, CowTransfer was born out of necessity, and initially designed for personal use. Back in 2016, when Chen worked as a technical director at creative digital production company MediaMonks, he used WeTransfer a lot. But it wasn’t perfect due to the hassle of using a VPN along with the speed issues. And transferring files with Baidu was not always an option either, because of the paid features of the service. Not to mention, not all the clients were in China. As a professional programmer Chen created his prototype of CowTransfer in only six months. First used internally at the production company, the platform was later made available for outside users once its creator left MediaMonks. Witnessing the number of his users growing, Chen saw the potential in his platform as a real business. Soon after, on May 18th, 2018 the CowTransfer was officially launched. Fast forward 2.5 years, and today, it’s a competitive, growing startup, providing services for 6 million monthly active users.
Like many startups, CowTransfer is fueled by a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. It’s close-knit, efficient team is lead by a founder, who truly believes in his product, value of building meaningful relationships and the importance of recruiting real talent. So when in need of a senior talent responsible for creative and artwork, Chen turned to a former colleague, Belgian Creative Director Lucas Debrock, with whom he worked with at Dr.Panda (a major Chinese children games company) in Chengdu. Chen insisted on persuading Lucas to join the team for almost a year. After Dr.Panda, Imagination, and Saatchi&Saatchi, he finally joined the team of multitaskers, just in time for CowTransfer’s first advertising client Dell.
Having built a massive user base, that’s Gen-Z at its core, last spring CowTransfer branched out to monetize the business, providing immersive advertising. The interface, where users spend 2 mins on average for each upload, download, or preview, doubles as ad space. The standard package price, similar to advertising in WeChat moments is “not cheap”, as Chen readily agrees. But because it’s a one banner interface, a 100% impression rate is guaranteed for each banner. In addition, the CowTransfer’s creative approach to displaying brand’s assets results in engaging content, that users are more eager to interact with. The click rate of the CowTransfer content/advertising banner ranges between 0.3%-22%, which exceeds the current industry standard. Most of the clients testing the new advertising channel now come from the luxury industry. For instance, CowTransfer has successful ad campaigns for Gucci, Burberry, Balenciaga, that exceeded estimated impressions by 184, 578, and 468 percent accordingly.
In addition to ad placement, CowTransfer lends its front page to display content by cool creatives. The team believes it’s important to support underrepresented talent, who makes amazing things, but doesn’t receive the exposure they deserve. By creating their CowSupport platform (https://cowsupport.cowtransfer.com), they right that wrong. Once you click on the featured artwork, you’re taken to a dedicated community sharing portfolios, articles and more. On any given week, CowSupport brings a range of visual stories from a young ping pong community, a local skateboard shop, art work from Greek-South African artist, and a website building platform to name just a few.
Despite apparent similarities of services with other file sharing companies, like WeTransfer, in Lucas’s opinion, the other platforms are not doing enough. The CowTransfer team, on the contrary, is bursting with ideas and plans. “We don’t move your files, we move your ideas” is the slogan that guides company strategy. Both Chen and Lucas come from a creative industry, and for now, they’ve tackled just one point, file sharing… but they plan for more. In additional to CowSupport, the next new thing to expect is Project Pasture, a market place on a separate platform, where users can create a profile, share and sell their content online. In the grand scheme of things, CowTransfer is shooting to become a one-stop solution for their users to transfer, sell, manage, and display their creative content. They want to put the creator in the spotlight, aiming to build multiple platforms dedicated to extend ideas. But no matter what the future holds, the team promises to keep CowTransfer as a practical and fast solution for transferring files in and out of China, a budding community for creatives, and an efficient advertising channel for a young, trendy and restless audience.