What’s your story?
I’ll try in 100 words. Went to the U.S from China when I was 15, then UChicago for Economics. In college, met a great group of inspiring friends and founded Moneythink, a financial literacy non-profit, with them. Besides Moneythink, I served as the class representative and VP of Student Government at UChicago. These two experience were my first lessons for how to start something new and how to run an organization. However, since everyone in my major wanted to get into banking, I also did my internship at Goldman Hong Kong during my 2nd year summer. It was clear that I won’t be any good for that industry. So I decided not to go back. The best thing that happened when I was there was that I met my future cofounder, Dafeng Guo, for Strikingly. We started working on things together after the internship and I also asked Teng to join. The three of us have been working together ever since. We failed the first startup project, I quitted school, and we were at 3 different locations across the world, but we stick together over Skype calls. Then we applied for YC together, failed the first time. Decided that we wanted to prove YC was wrong about their decision and went full time instead. Launched Strikingly 3.0, finally got our first paid user and went profitable. Applied for YC again and got in after we’ve proven that the market exists and we’re determined to own it. Since then, raised a round of $1.5M and stayed profitable until now. Still dreaming about helping everyone unleash their individuality by allowing them to launch anything online, a blog, a personal site, a business, or a startup. Never been more positive about the future 🙂
Our story: http://www.forbes.com/sites/morganhartley/2013/03/19/how-a-y-combinator-startup-is-born-the-story-of-strikingly/#7511abed55da
Our mission: https://www.strikingly.com/manifesto
What excites you most about your industry?
The fact that we’re empowering people to launch something new every day. Entrepreneurs and creatives are our core audience, and we made a tool that allows them to have a voice and a presence on the internet. The trend of entrepreneurship powers our industry and it’s growing fast. So riding this wave of new entrepreneurs and new businesses is exciting.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m Chinese. I went to the U.S when only when I was 15. Our team is right now based in China and the Philippines. Also, ever since the very beginning, we have many users and customers from Asia.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I don’t think I can name one. I have too many. We have our R&D center in Shanghai, our support team in the Philippines, and another office in Chengdu. I love them all for different reasons. We’re also started to build teams in some other parts of China. So I really can’t name one.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Create superfans, not customers. We made that into a poster and put that at the entrance of Strikingly. This is not a technique. It’s the fundamental reason we decided to start a business, change people’s life one at a time. Focusing on this philosophy also allows us to find clarity every time we felt confused.
Who inspires you?
A lot of people, but there’s one group I owe a special thank you to – Y Combinator. It was a life changing experience and we’ve learned so much from them, about how to build an awesome product, how to focus, how to build a team culture, how to perceive fundraising, and much more. YC is the best.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
A good product is not enough, you have to know how to distribute it. We’ve seen so many bad products “made it” and that feels unfair. However, everything happens happens for a reason. No point in resenting it. I knew that distribution is important but I didn’t know how important it is. It’s hard to describe it, but you have to deeply internalize the fact that the only defensibility is that your product can distribute faster than others, period. Virality, sales, marketing, branding, whatever. Focus on growth and growth only.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Many things if I look back, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I learn so much from my mistakes as from my tiny successes. In fact, I think most of my new gained tenacity and decisiveness come from the fact that I’ve failed in new areas, instead of winning in new areas. So, yes, I think there are a lot of things I could have done better if I knew what I know now or had the same level of wisdom, but I didn’t. So I think all the mistakes I’ve made I had to make them. I hope by saying this I answered the question.
How do you unwind?
Sleep, watch movie, drink with friends, and exercise. All the usual thing. Besides all these, I think having an awesome team that you can share your worries, pressure, and uncertainty with is more important than anything else. I’m glad to say that I have a team like this now.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Singapore. My gf is there 🙂
Everyone in business should read this book:
The hard thing about hard things
Shameless plug for your business:
Strikingly allows anyone to launch a website in minutes. We have millions of entrepreneurs and creatives already launching their startups, businesses, online stores, portfolios, personal websites, blogs, etc.
How can people connect with you?
Also, if you sign up on Strikingly, the first email you’ll receive will be from me and trust me, I actually read the replies. So you can find me there as well.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
Take the ‘Key Person of Influence’ scorecard <http://www.keypersonofinfluence.com/scorecard/>