Humble enough to seek feedback, hungry enough to move faster

  • Piktochart shares its story thus far with DNA
  • Finding the right talent and creating the right culture key to success

Humble enough to seek feedback, hungry enough to move faster
PIKTOCHART, helmed by the wife-and-husband team of Goh Ai Ching and Andrea Zaggia, is off to Silicon Valley this weekend for the experience of a lifetime.

While Goh will be immersed in an accelerator program, Zaggia will be getting an intimate feel for the life that software developers live in start-ups in the Valley.

With the start-up community here keenly interested in how they do, Digital News Asia decided to go back to basics and ask Goh, who is the face of Piktochart, about the journey so far, her own background and what she has learnt so far.

For the story of how she met her husband, you will have to buy the writer a teh tarik (pulled tea)!

Editor's Note: DNA readers are in for a treat. Every week for the four weeks she will be in Silicon Valley, Goh will pick one point that is top-of-mind for her and share her reflections. Watch out for it!
 
DNA: How long have you been at this?

Goh: Our beta was out in December, 2011. We monetized the app at the end of March. We now have 20,000 free users and 1,000 Pro users (and counting!).

DNA: What is your education background?
 
Goh: I studied experimental psychology in the University of Bristol. What we did in experimental psychology was measure brain waves, the very scientific aspects of what makes or creates certain patterns in human behavior.
 
I had a special interest in visual attention and design. For example, how things were designed for humans. Some big failures in the world now include overly complicated microwave ovens or so many buttons to press on a washing machine before you get to take it for a spin -- ergonomics.
 
If I wasn’t a psychologist, I would have considered ergonomics/ engineering instead.

DNA: Where have you worked before and what is your domain expertise?
 
Goh: I worked in Procter and Gamble as an associate media manager for 15 months. It took me a short time to realize that while I liked corporate marketing and advertising, things were not moving fast enough to constantly re-iterate due to the size of operations. Before I knew it, I started a web design company called Yet Another Studio in Penang while trying to figure the next move.
 
DNA: What problem are you trying to solve and what is your motivation/reason for wanting to solve this?
 
Goh: We noticed that infographics was hot about two years ago (and was already used widely by The New York Times, etc.) but people lacked the necessary skills and tools to create good ones.
 
Sure, there were tons of successful presentation and visualization tools such as Wondergraphs, Prezi, Sliderocket and Tableau, but none of them were created specially to help people with infographics.
 
DNA: Describe your product/service and why is it different from what exists in the market?
 
Goh: There is no other infographic tool out there now apart from Visual.ly which is founded by the ex-marketing guy of Mint, so we know that we are facing some great heat out there.
 
However, given the size of the infographic space, it is going to be an exciting time when we see more players emerge. Visual.ly focuses on automation (so you pull in the data from somewhere else with a click of the mouse and then customize your themes), while we enable you to customize the infographics so that you can use it for multiple purposes and make them interactive.
 
Our target markets are also slightly different -- they are more geared towards publishers and we towards the business-to-consumer market.
 
DNA: Where is your funding from and how much equity do the founders still hold?
 
Goh: We are bootstrapped. We received a small seed round from chinaccelerator, a Tech Stars affiliate accelerator in Dalian, China where we attended the program for four months last year. We still hold 92% equity.

DNA: What has been the toughest hurdle so far?
 
Goh: Building a start-up with the kind of talent we want to pursue, while being in Penang and bootstrapped. We do not think that there is a shortage of talent here, but hiring the right person into the team who understands the concept of shipping a feature every day is tough.
 
They have to be humble enough to seek feedback and yet hungry to keep wanting to move faster.

We also learnt the hard way about the direction of Piktochart, what works and what does not. It is a tough ride to get the people involved in the start-up out of their computers to see what the users are really saying and accept the cold bitter fact that the current method does not work.

DNA: How do you keep yourself motivated?
 
Goh: We are beginning to implement this. We have a wall of "good stuff" where we have individual team's envelopes and we thank one another for their good work from time to time. Only genuine comments, from the heart.
 
We are also collecting feedback from users via Twitter and so on, and pasting them up on the wall whenever we get some good feedback.

We also do the same for the negative ones. They get turned into action points on our project management system and the team works on them collectively.
 
We have a lot of sessions in the office, usually at 10.30am, to do something silly like danza kuduro to get us laughing and insert more oxygen into the head.

DNA: What expertise does your team have?
 
Goh: We have a set of great designers – they are forward-thinking and have great front-end skills. Our developers are, on the other hand, diligent and can take whatever comes their way. The entire team is humble yet ambitious. I am not sure if you referred to expertise as in programming skills – in that case, it would be PHP, Ruby on Rails, Flash and JavaScript.

DNA: What is your favorite website?
 
Goh: Asana. Our lifeline on Piktochart depends on it. I’m also addicted to Hootsuite. It’s just very efficient to have all the social media information I need in one place.
 
 
DNA: What is your favorite app on the mobile?
 
Goh: Pulse News. It is our RSS reader -- nothing like a great cuppa hot news on the phone before you start working.

DNA: What have you learned about being an entrepreneur so far?
 
Goh: Be humble, keep moving. Don't ever, ever lose faith in your product. Find good co-founders. Get a really good start-up culture early. You will go only as far as the team wants to go and believes in you. Monetize the product as early as possible.
 
Note: Picture of Goh Ai Ching courtesy of StartupMalaysia.org

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