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Malaysia and Tech Startups have Piktochart in common

Written by Mohamed P.Hassan

Piktochart is a web based HTML editor that help “non-designers” create beautiful and engaging infographics easily. The company found its footing after a stint at a boot camp in China but soon moved to Malaysia and currently resides in Penang Island, north of Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur.

The idea has been the brainchild of co-founders Ai Ching and Andrea (her husband). As Mrs Ching puts it; where he (Andrea) runs “the code”, I run “the business”. Piktochart was conceived from the couples experiences acquired from running a web design studio called “Yet Another Studio” that started getting an overwhelming number of requests to design infographics. Infographics, a term coined in the 1960s, refers to simple and attractive ways to represent information or data. “We loved making them [infographics], but more than that, we wanted to make it easy for people like me (who do not use Photoshop or Illustrator) to make their own infographics,” said Ching.

The platform has gathered over half a million users since its inception with user numbers continuing to climb at an exponential pace. A Lot of these customers come from France, which only ranks second to America where 50% of its users originate. A majoritity of the users overwhelmingly represent the marketing and educational sectors, with some content writers in between.

Piktochart’s business is based on a subscription model. Currently the service is free and users are allowed to produce an unlimited number of infographics. Piktochart’s subscription model kicks into motion when users start to request the “Pro” features and this is when then users are prompted to subscribe to the service. The subscription is divided into monthly, quarterly and yearly billing cycles, with a 1 year subscription being the cheapest at USD 14.00 per month. The company shares attractive offers with some education and non-profit organizations as well. As mentioned to Decision Insider by Ching, the company is looking “at a few other features” that might help them diversify their business.

The CEO Ai Ching leads the “Growth Hacking” efforts of the company, challenging growth through SEO and CRO optimizations, in addition to content marketing. Ai Ching referred to Eric Ries’s writings on the Lean Startup Movement, where growth hacking is basically defined as recognising how to test, measure and learn. She adds, “The measurement part is key and one that is often overlooked by startups. Based on the data, we then figure out how to get quick growth and then figure out the most sustainable method of doing so. Piktochart subscribes to the inbound marketing mentality and thus, we do not usually spend too much on advertising.”

Piktochart incubated itself at Chinaccelerator, a boot camp in China, before the company relocated to Malaysia, where they got support from Cradle Fund Malaysia. For Piktochart, if it was not in the San Fransisco “Bay Area” near Silicon Valley, location became a less relevant point of contention. Ai Ching adds that they have been told “numerous times” to move to San Francisco but they found Malaysia to have the required talent and had so much potential for growth. Ching adds, “We’re committed to staying in Malaysia and would never want to move.”

As mentioned by Ai Ching, Piktocharts journey through the start-up phase has been characterised by “the usual suspects… [L]ack of validation, not having proper processes in place, not knowing how to scale or whether we (Piktochart) were doing it too quickly/slowly,” before they started seeing success. According to the CEO, Ai Ching, Piktochart has become the one stop infographic shop to around 800,000 users from all corners of the world.

Piktochart advocates a casual culture within is fraternity and adds flavor to this idea with its home-styled office. The office, which is located on the 20th floor of SUNTECH business tower in Penang features a panoramic view of the Island and its greenery.

On being asked to share some advice to “startup in Malaysia”, Mrs Ai Ching said, the country has “good” infrastructure, a “supportive” government and “a very awesome” talent base. “I think investors are missing out if they are just looking out for Indonesia and Philippines all the time,” adds Ai Ching.

Compared to the United States, the ASEAN block of countries offers an attractive business climate with lower operational costs, living costs, transportation costs and utilities such as electricity.

–Edited by R.M.