Pei-Han Chuang is the founder of Qiito.com (pronounced key-tow) one of the most successful Asian founded Community Travel sites. Qiito raised $SGD 2 million in 2011, formed partnerships with the Japanese and Taiwan Tourism Boards as well as many other companies and is growing extremely quickly with over 21,000 locations shared with 50,000 photos (this is has risen more than a 1000 in the last 24 hours)
Editor: Hi Pei-Han, you are getting great traction now, users are sharing 1000s of locations a week, but tell us about the early times, the struggles and difficulties you had to overcome to get to this point.
Pei-Han: Let’s set aside difficulty on funding, staffs, cash flow and more, because anything can be solved by money is not really a problem.
The real difficulty to launch a Start-up is to have a strong mind and be passionate in what you are doing. If your motive to launch a startup is to break free from office, to have freedom, be your own boss and be in control, then I will advise you to stay put and do not quit your job.
Because it is exactly opposite, you will not have enough time for your family, enough sleep, enough money and things will not be within your control (until you start to gain traction)
You will have to get used to it and embrace it. Most of time, you feel like you have a split personality and lack of persistence is your worst enemy.You are continuously doubting if what you have done is correct and should you persist with it because expected result has not come in or should you just give up?
Finally, you pull through and have surprising good result. But soon next the bottleneck comes and the mental tug war repeats again.
Trust me, it is mentally abnormal but a fun process.
Editor: What have been your big wins and what did you have to do to achieve them?
Pei-Han: Our biggest wins have been getting Government Tourism Boards and major brands to partner with us : http://qiito.com/about/investors_partners
One of our other wins has being one of first movers in Asia Community Travel and the significant growth in users and solving some of pain points in travel industry, this combination has helped us get attention from our existing and coming partners.
In fact, many of our partners found us because either someone in their team was one of our users or someone close to them is sharing our user updates on Facebook.
Many of our users are heroes who help all our users a lot by tagging photos to exact location to make these information usable for all users. Hence we would like to say a big thanks you to all of them in helping all travel lovers to easily find out where & how to go places that they had been to.
Another encouraging thing that we see is our growth in users who shares information and our bloggers base aka Qiito community.
What did we do to achieve this? We stay close to users and be sincere in helping to solve their problems.
to know more what is difference between Qiito and other sites, and how we help http://qiito.com/about/testimonials
Editor: Pei-Han was kind enough to share screenshots of his early qiito beta versions
Editor: What are some of the mistakes and lessons you learnt?
Pei-Han: Lessons I learned:
1. To stay ahead in the game is to stay closer to users, so you know what they want and enable you to develop the tools they really need. Many start-ups do not last more than a year, mainly because they do not stay close with users and end up losing confidence in what they are building when they don’t get the user response they want and end up giving up.
2. A strong-minded team that stay with you through thick and thin.
Be sure when forming a team, look into not only their belief in the product but also that will believe in the startup life. Because there is no point hiring someone that never reply to message after office hours and never wants to work extra. I am really fortunate to have many good people who are still staying with me and I need to say a big thanks to them.
Editor: What is the next big strategic goal for you and the team?
Pei-Han: We have received many complements from our users that they love how Qiito can do for them. Hence our team’s goal is to introduce Qiito to more people and keep surveying our users on what they want, so to keep improving ourselves to better.