This is part of our coverage of the Infinity Ventures Summit 2013 in Sapporo, Japan. You can read more of our reports from this event here.
On day two of the Infinity Ventures Summit, we heard from three up-and-coming startups who related how they are taking on global markets. So far all of these companies have seen some success in global markets, but for all three that only came after lots of failure. The panelists included:
- John Lai Founder & CEO MixerBox Inc.
- Peter Yen, CEO, Pinkoi
- David Chen, CEO, Strikingly
- Moderator: Akio Tanaka, Co-founder & Managing Partner, Infinity Venture Partners
The discussion started out with Peter, who explained that Taiwan-based Pinkoi has 65,000 unique products, 3,000 brands, and 8,000 designs. Most are from its home market of Taiwan (about 70%), but they are getting more from other countries. They plan to add more languages to their service to aid in their international growth.
Interestingly, Peter had seven failed products before finally finding success with Pinkoi. And so far while their growth has been mostly organic, it has been very strong as you can see in the charts below. Pinkoi has 100,000 members, and saw $610,000 in total sales in 2012. As you may have guessed, Pinkoi targets female users. And such cute services certainly have a global appeal.
John describes that his company had 10 failed products before Mixerbox. Japan is now its biggest user base, but it has been the number one music app in 13 countries. Their app tries to make it easy to create playlists and share them with friends, sort of like digitizing the mixed tape process.
You can also browse other people’s playlists and subscribe to those too. In the beginning he says there was lots of pressure to succeed, since he had left an established family business to branch out on his own. But he had faith that eventually he would hit the right product.
As for David, he relates starting out with Strikingly out of a messy room in San Francisco. They managed to run the startup in the early days on a meagre budget of $1,600 per month – and that included their rent. From those beginnings Strikingly emerged, a solution for creating simple mobile-first websites in a very easy way. David points to one of their users who is blind, but managed to create a website on the iPad using Strikingly.
They have 40% monthly growth in revenue in the last eight months, with users in 178 countries. Their biggest user base is the US, but the second biggest market is Japan, without any localization efforts until now. So far there have been over 40,000 websites created on the platform to date. David tells about how they were first rejected from the Y-Combinator incubator, but managed to get in the second time. But their initial failures, he says, have been famously well-documented in publications like Forbes and The New York Times.
The common thread among these three entrepreneurs is persistence in the face of failure. And like most startups that eventually find wide-spread success, that experience becomes an asset. For Japanese startups, this willingness to take risks and fail is a good lesson to learn from.