ProspectsASEAN talked to Ai Ching, Co-Founder of Piktochart, to discuss about her entrepreneurial journey and some of her greatest achievements at Piktochart – which includes how she focuses on culture “pruning” to shape a great work culture for her organisation. Ai Ching started Piktochart with a vision to transform the digital marketing industry and empower content marketers on every level of visual communication.
Having started her career in the corporate world, Ai Ching understood the importance of building a work environment that enables people to effectively work together towards a common mission – guided by Piktochart’s core values (with the acronym HOPEFUL). To conclude her interview, she shared some of her most unexpected challenges in establishing Piktochart and imparted some words of wisdom for aspiring female entrepreneurs.
1. We understand that one of your roles as CEO from your LinkedIn is culture “pruning”. Tell us a bit about the company culture and work environment at Piktochart.
To understand what the culture is like, I would have to go back 8 years in history. I came from a corporate environment which was very high growth but at the same time, I did not feel that I was getting much guidance. I knew that I wasn’t doing a good job, but I didn’t know how to get better. This feeling of being “lost” and that my work was work, without meaning, was very demotivating.
My aspiration for Piktochart was to be a place where people would be able to work together, find mission and purpose aligned to their personal lives, and a place where we wouldn’t have to be dragging our feet to work. Apart from a product that was motivating many that they were making impact in people’s lives, the people who are in Piktochart are also very important. Our values HOPEFUL came to be as a result of this culture: Humble, Open up, Passionate, Excellent, Fun loving, User focused, Love.
The reason why “pruning” came into the picture is this. A tree that is left unkempt for a period of time simply stops growing.
Here are a few reasons to prune your trees (obtained from a site):
- Reduce risk of failure from dead or weak branches
- Provide clearance
- Reduce shade and wind resistance
- Manage tree health
- Manage flower or fruit production
- Improve aesthetics
- Improve tree structure
- Save a storm-damaged tree
Note: It’s pretty much the same for every culture!
2. Graduating from University of Bristol with an Experimental Psychology degree, you started out your career with an internship at CIMB followed by a media planning role at P&G. How did you come up with the idea of Piktochart and get involved with visual and communication design?
The idea came when I was reading more about digital marketing and saw that content marketing was going to be a lot more popular compared to push marketing, or what was traditionally known as advertising.
Apart from blogs, white papers and PDFs that people could download, I felt that more people were going to try to make their communication more visual. We started out with infographics for content marketers and the idea continued to grow to where it is today where it’s not just about infographics, but every level of visual communication including flyers, presentations, social media etc.
3. The topic of women empowerment has been widely discussed in recent times. From your experience, what are some of the advantages and/or disadvantages of being a female entrepreneur? And what advice do you have for other aspiring female entrepreneurs in ASEAN?
Advantages: Women are quite relational and nurturing, these skills work to our advantage because “People” is a very important asset in growing a company. In my opinion, women also have a good intuition of what works or not, and they are less likely to invest in a failing idea.
Disadvantages: I somehow felt that women are less of risk takers and think a lot less “big” when it comes to ambitions and goals.
Of course, the above are stereotypes, and I am drawing them out of what I consider to be my strengths and weaknesses.
For the aspiring female entrepreneurs in ASEAN, know what you want (clearly define why you’re an entrepreneur) and go for it!
4. Entrepreneurship is often glamorized by the media and pop culture, where only the “sexy” and positive sides are highlighted. What was the most unexpected challenge you faced when building Piktochart that you feel young talents should know?
A lot of people often ask me if the hardest part of building Piktochart was in its initial stages… and that’s when the “sexy” and positive sides are highlighted. I would say it’s the opposite, I find growing Piktochart a lot more challenging than starting it. Achieving a 100% growth in the initial years was no problem but became a problem in the latter years.
The unexpected challenges for me – despite how much I care about culture, people are an unpredictable bunch, and there’s still a lot for me to learn in terms of leadership and management.
The other hard parts are that I’ve always been a person that takes a leap of faith, does rapid experimentation to see what works and this method does not scale after some time – I have come to realize that I am very poor at strategy. We have a very talented team and everyone’s looking to us (Leadership team) to make the right decisions!
5. Apart from the technical capabilities, what are the main attributes or attitudes that you value most and look for when hiring new talents?
It goes back to the core values:
- Humble & Open Up – someone who can take feedback and give feedback.
- Passionate & Excellent – Someone who genuinely wants to grow and improve themselves.
- Love – Someone who enjoys working as part of a team and relatively selfless, they care about others in the company.
Piktochart is a web application that offers people without intensive graphic design experience to easily create professional-grade visuals and collaborate with their teams. To try out their free product, go here.