I am a first time founder, so I have made my fair share of mistakes during the past five years while building Piktochart. I can honestly say that the majority of these mistakes were learning experiences and I have also learned that there are a few familiar sayings in the startup world that are conventional but not necessarily universal. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone.
You need cash, so raise while you can.
Most startups are hungry to prove themselves, and the rule of thumb for success is defined by how much capital you’ve raised.
We considered that path but decided against it. In 2014, Piktochart was fast-growing with healthy margins. We had a 5-digit user acquisition rate every month. To continue expanding and making headway into the “big money” segment, we considered tackling the enterprise market by hiring a US-based sales team and opening an office there.
We rejected the idea, and two years later, I can tell you that the $2 million we would have spent on customer acquisition efforts may not have worked for us at that time.
Hire fast, fire fast.
Once a startup gets an investor, there’s a ticking clock waiting for a product to ship and results to be delivered. Along with that comes a tendency to hire quickly. While there’s a great deal of literature out there about how to get hiring done right, I believe strongly in remaining patient until the right fit is found. Instead of bringing in 10 people per month just to fill the gaps, I encourage the decision makers to figure out the culture of the team and company as a whole.
My estimation is that a rigorous hiring processes can save us from investing 900 salary hours in a candidate that does not work out: 600 hours in salary, the team leaders spending at least 100 hours in training, and then another 200 hours agonizing about the hire that they have chosen.
A startup should run like a sports team, not like a family.
Piktochart is also unique because my cofounder Andrea is also my husband.
As a “family,” we strive to put our best foot forward. Our team spends a lot of time together, and we’ve found that even employees that leave Piktochart, continue to keep in touch and support one another. It’s an environment where you see people disagreeing about certain things (remember that not all of us get along with our siblings), but at the same time, there’s a great deal of respect for everyone’s individuality, and our familial bonds are very strong. The goals of a family are to thrive over a long period of time and to cherish the relationships that blossom during that time.
Piktochart is unique, and conventional wisdom has not always played to our advantage. That being said, not every startup is created equally, and my advice shouldn’t be taken blindly. See what works best for you!
Ai Ching Goh co-founded Piktochart, a web application offering users without intensive graphic design experience an easy way to create professional-grade infographics and communication materials. Ching believes in finding joy in everything you do. She is a firm believer that building great products is only possible with a team that is 100% motivated and inspired, which includes emotional happiness too.