That helloasia.com is not your typical Internet startup is a point on which Chih Chueng, its 29-year-old chief executive and co-founder, is emphatic. 'We are not a company that started from the garage. We are not the struggling startup type,' Mr Chih, dressed in an impeccably pressed suit and expensive leather shoes, said. Struggling is not the word you would use to describe Mr Chih or his Silicon Valley-based e-marketing startup, which has won US$20 million in first-round financing from a respected venture-capital consortium that includes TMCT Ventures, Greylock, Intel and H&Q Asia-Pacific. The company is basically a Web-based rewards programme. Much like frequent-flier mileage programmes, helloasia awards points to members for its loyalty in buying products through helloasia-affiliated Web retailers. Signing up for helloasia's free-mail service earns you 150 points. Recommending the service to friends earns points, as does making purchases. These points can be redeemed for anything from CDs to a trip to the Sydney Olympics. Though the helloasia site has not been launched, the company has four regional offices - in Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. It has 45 employees, whose average age is 30. 'We have a solid management team. The people who have joined us come from established global companies such as Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, American Express and Netscape,' Mr Chih said. He said helloasia's revenue would come from advertising and collecting referral fees from its Net merchants, most of which were from Asia. He said the company's database of registered users enabled it to target advertising. 'We can push via e-mail news of special offers or deals from merchants such as HMV, Golden Village or Kinokunya only to helloasia members with relevant interests,' he said. Mr Chih, who says he pays himself less than $70,000 a year, expects helloasia to start making a profit by the middle of next year. Born in Fuzhou in the mainland, Mr Chih emigrated with his family to the United States when he was eight and grew up in Long Island, New York. After graduating from Harvard, he worked for Goldman Sachs as a financial analyst for two years. Mr Chih then quit to do a law degree and a master's in business. While undertaking those degrees, he found he had so much time on his hands he founded Crimson Solutions, an Internet firm that hunts for jobs for graduates. The idea for helloasia.com was conceived by Mr Chih and his four partners, all Asian-Americans, last year. They started the company in April and by July had received funding. 'We sent in our business plan to eight companies and heard back from seven. In fact, we got offered $60 million from these seven firms but we had to pare down the offer to six companies and $20 million or we would be losing too much equity,' he said. 'An Internet startup in the United States has to sell toothpaste on-line or something along those lines, has to be very niche. However, Asia is like a blank canvas and this is where the growth is,' he said.