Hopes to hit one million users from current 170,000
Looks to raise US$1mil from an investor who can add value beyond money
NOTE: This article has been amended to correct some figures and to include an actual Piktograph infographic
CHANCES are that if you asked the people who are key influencers in the start-up space in Malaysia or their pick of the most promising Internet companies, Piktochart would be among the first few names you hear.
Based in the northern Malaysian state of Penang and led by the wife-and-husband team of Goh Ai Ching and Andrea Zaggia, Piktochart -- an infographic site that aims to “make information beautiful” – first came to prominence in October 2011 during the Silicon Valley Comes to Malaysia conference.
During Digital News Asia’s recent visit to Penang, I visited the Piktochart office in a residential area and had a sharing session with Goh and her team (pic above). Over dinner later, she gave DNA an update of Piktochart’s progress so far.
The most interesting news was that a Silicon Valley venture capitalist (VC) has apparently valued Piktochart at US$5 million, but because the VC makes a minimum investment of US$5 million and typically only takes up to 30%, “they need us to get a lot bigger before they can come in,” claims Goh (pic, right).
And that is the game plan for 2013 with Goh setting a “scary target” of moving from 170,000 to one million users. It is all going to be based on the strength of the new version of Piktochart that costs US$29 a month. (Note that not all users will be paying US$29 for the full featured product).
The new version is interesting as it has a social component to it where users can share their infographic and embed it into their own sites. And, “as far as I know, it is the first infographic tool that is search engine friendly,” claims Goh.
At the same time Piktochart is working hard to build a Microsoft PowerPoint export feature into the current version, but this is taking much longer than expected because “it is very hard to do, technically, and we are just learning the skills off the Internet because no one here is teaching them,” says Zaggia, who is also the chief technology officer.
But if they manage to nail this feature, Goh is confident that it would help them achieve their exponential growth target of the year (click infographic on left to download 1.27MB file).
They got a big boost recently from Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd – the non-profit agency that manages an investment fund under Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance – which gave them a grant of RM420,000 (US$136,000) which will be mainly used for marketing efforts.
While Goh claims that revenue-wise, Piktochart is doing well, she still wants to raise US$1 million in order to get proper returns from the amount raised, which she says will go towards hiring more A-tier talent.
“We need more web developers and don’t have a mobile version yet,” she says.
Money will also be invested into marketing and even to possibly make an acquisition which Goh feels is necessary in order to scale rapidly.
But she won’t be looking for a local investor. Her previous experience with raising money from local investors has broken down in the final stage over valuation issues with Goh saying that local investors “drive you to the bone” with their low valuations, high expected returns and exit terms that are “super not-favorable.”
Her early failed attempts to raise money, which she now counts as a blessing in disguise, from either Malaysian or US investors, has made her pickier today. “It is really like a marriage where you are going to live in the same house, so you better make sure both parties really get along,” she says.
It is highly likely that she is going for a US-based investor as she feels they would be able to better help Piktochart with their connections and even to acquire competitors in the United States.
While there is still a long way to go to build Piktochart into the company she envisions, Goh is grateful for all the support she has received so far, including from random people who have reached out to her after hearing about Piktochart.
“One of them is an executive director in a leading accounting firm who has been helping us a lot in our financial negotiations with investors. This person is not asking for anything but that we become clients of her firm when we are successful,” she says.
It seems like it is not just the tech scene here that is banking on Piktochart to make it big.
Piktochart's off to Silicon Valley
Humble enough to seek feedback, hungry enough to move faster
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