Why did you start your business?
-We started it because we needed it ourselves. When I was in college, I needed websites for almost anything I was working on, student groups, non-profit organizations, campaigns, student governments, etc. Every time I need to set up these simple web presence, I'd go to the Teng, my co-founder now, for help. It was a frustrating experience for both of us, since it takes up a lot of his time and I need to wait for his availability. I was always wondering if there's a tool that I can just use myself, which doesn't cost much and can get the job done in minutes. This is not just my personal problem. I was the Student Government VP of the University of Chicago and I was responsible for the funding committee. Besides foods for different events, website building was the second most requested item for funding. Since I don't have solutions for the organization leaders who applied for funding, I usually have to give them thousands of dollars each to build their site. Seeing that this is a huge problem, we started working on a solution that we can use ourselves. Indeed, how to build a website is one of the most fundamental problems on the internet. After internet has been developed for over 20 years, average internet users still can't create their own web identities easily. That's why we started Strikingly.
What is Strikingly?
Strikingly (www.strikingly.com) is an online website builder that allows anyone to create beautiful, mobile-optimized websites in minutes. It's very simple to use, but it's not so easy that you can create webpages in one click. We just launched a new feature that allows users to build a personal profile website with a single click, utilizing their Facebook profile. You can try it out by visiting: http://www.strikingly.com/oneclick
How'd you come up with your business name?
– We were trying to find a domain that doesn't just describe the service, but also connect with our users emotionally. The old ways of building a website is boring, dull, and takes a long time. We want to be different and pass a message that setting up your own website can be a fun and exciting – it should be striking. We search around and found that Striking.ly was available. The .ly domain was really hot around that time and it's cool to have an English adverb that echoes with the experience we're trying to deliver to our users. We were very excited and decided on the spot that it will be our name. After we got into Y Combinator, we realize that a .com domain speaks of legitimacy and shows the users that we're serious about this business. Since we have consistently hear from our users that “Strikingly is actually striking,” we knew that our name has a subtle but powerful branding value. So we decided to acquire Strikingly.com and make it our main name.
What in your background prepared you for this business?
– I was an economics major at the University of Chicago. However, startup is nothing like classes, and I learned all of the entrepreneurial mentality and skill set through trying different things out and failing. My first project was a non-profit organization. During my freshman year, I co-founded a non-profit called Moneythink with 4 of my best friends in college. It's a financial literacy non-profit that trains college students to teach high school student basic personal finance. I worked on this organization for about 3 years. I was in charge of event planning and fundraising from the school side. This experience taught me how to hustle together resources, organize a team, and get things done with a very small group of people. Besides running Moneythink, I was also the Vice President of Student Government of my university. Working with student organizations, administration, and local businesses taught me how to solve problems that involve many parties. However, nothing taught me more than a failed startup experience. Before strikingly, we failed our first startup miserably. I made most of the mistakes in a startup text book, hire the wrong people and not able to let them go fast enough, never talk to customers, never test beta product before we think it's perfect, etc. That was a tough experience that made me leave school after my junior year. The lessons we learned ended up becoming the most valuable assets and we're grateful that we made those mistakes early on. One thing all these experience gave me was the mentality to never give up, and that's the main reason we were able to bring Strikingly to life.
Tell us about this emerging trend in personal websites?
– Mobile internet brings everyone online. This means that your future employers and dates mostly likely will get to know you via internet on a mobile device. A traditional resume is an unnatural format for mobile browsing and a social media profile usually says very little about you given the constraint. More importantly, everyone has a resume and a social media profile. Statistics show that there are usually 118 people apply for any one job opening. So set you apart from the crowd? That's why people start to look for other more mobile optimized and legitimate ways to present themselves. A website is the natural choice. You don't need to download it, it's accessible anywhere, it makes an impression, and it shows that you take your career or date seriously. That's why more and more people start building their personal website. The websites are their online identity and their statement of legitimacy.
What do you believe the future is of websites and personal branding?
– Everyone will have their personal website with their personal domain. It's just like everyone has a resume or a business card. Website is the business card and the resume online. The format of website will be simpler in the future to fit the smaller mobile screens. Websites will have less content but more engaging story line.
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs and business owners?
– It's crucial to have a website, a mobile optimized one, to stays competitive in the mobile age. Mobile traffic is set to over take desktop traffic in 2015 latest, so it's better to think about having a mobile optimized site first and try to translate that simple format to the general web. This way you will deliver a simple experience to visitors across all devices. It doesn't work if you're trying to fit a desktop optimized website to mobile, since its format and structure are both too complicated for a smaller mobile screen.