Q&A: PicSee, the Taiwan Startup Making You Click on More Links

Q&A: PicSee, the Taiwan Startup Making You Click on More Links
Photo Credit: PicSee

What you need to know

This Taiwan startup is increasing the chances of people actually clicking on the links you share.

People share links every day; whether it’s on social media or through communication apps. But how can you increase the possibility of people actually clicking on the links you share?

“People nowadays are very smart in deciding which links they want to click; they will consider the preview title and picture before making their decision,” says Ray Wei (魏取向).

The 29-year-old is the co-founder of PicSee, a Taiwan startup that not only shortens URL links but allows users to customize the preview title and image of the links they share.

PicSee has received numerous awards and government grants and is one of the 12 Taiwan startups showcasing in TechCrunch Disrupt NY this year.

The News Lens spoke with Ray Wei and Wu Cheng-ho (吳振和), co-founders of PicSee, to learn more about developing the service.

The News Lens: What is the inspiration behind PicSee?

Ray Wei: I wanted to do a startup when I first started graduate school. My first startup was a food app, and when we were managing the Facebook fan page for this app, we found that the preview title and photo that went with the URL links were important. But users were unable to edit or change these two things back then, so we developed a tool that could let us do so. It became an internal tool.

Then at this one competition, we had to throw in all our ideas, which including this tool. It was awarded an NT$500,000 (US$16,500) fund from that competition, and that’s when we started thinking more seriously about putting our energy and time into developing it. A month later, in 2015, we officially launched PicSee. It was originally a side project, but we discovered the market potential in it.

TNL: How are you different from your competitors?

Wei: Google, for example, offers a similar service in shortening web links. However, its analytics for the URL links it generates only provides real-time information. You can’t see past analytics, but you can do so in our reports. Our professional plan also allows business to have private analysis reports.

Currently, only Facebook Page allows users to change the title and photo for each shared link. You can’t do so on any other social media platform or communications software.

TNL: What is your current usage rate?

Wu Cheng-ho: We currently have around 70,000 users, with half based in Taiwan. We are also seeing rapid growth in Thailand, Vietnam and Egypt. We generated 62 million clicks this January, and Thailand took up 2 percent; in February, Thailand took up 18 percent of 77 million clicks.

Our users still mostly use PicSee to share links on Facebook, and some are using it on Line now. Many of them use it to optimize the display quality of YouTube links.

TNL: What are the difficulties you have seen so far?

Wei: We have seen our service being used on links to porn or other malicious websites. The worst scenario is PicSee will gain a bad reputation and, for example, Facebook might think we are a porn or malicious site. So we are spending a lot of time filtering these links and optimizing this problem.

Another issue is that a URL redirection service means that users will get a blank page if the link doesn’t redirect properly. We are on call 24 hours a day and constantly worried about this.

TNL: What future plans do you have?

Wei: Our idea is not hard to replace, but we want users to become accustomed to our service as soon as possible. So our goal for the next year or so is to continue growing our user base, even though in the future we might still adopt the subscription business model, but we currently still focusing on user base to bring in more clicks.

TNL: What are your expectations of TechCrunch Disrupt NY?

Wu: We hope to obtain more media connections in New York City. We already have a good grasp of the support we can get in Taiwan, so we want to expand to overseas and continue maintaining these relationships. This will be a lot of help in our operations or exposure in the future.

Looking for investors and potential partners is another thing we are aiming to do. Each show is a chance for exposure, but the key focus is keeping in touch and cultivating the relationships. The U.S. is still a market we are very unfamiliar with, and we need to build relationships from the ground.

TNL: You two just returned to Taiwan from spending some time in Silicon Valley. What differences do you see in the startup environment there and Taiwan?

Wei: Taiwan really is not that disadvantaged. We just use different languages and have different markets. I actually felt more confident coming back from the trip on which I really broadened my horizons. The ideas Taiwanese have are as good as the ones in Silicon Valley.

Wu: Taiwan’s market is not small, but it’s rather a very good place to test out the market. After the trip, we were more certain that we want to stand on the international stage and develop an international service.

TNL: How do you think the government could better support startups?

Wu: It was only until we traveled abroad did we realize we had a very little understanding of other countries. So if our goal is to push Taiwan towards globalization, then the government needs to provide more information on or channels to the outside world.

Wei: I think grants are the most direct form of support the government can offer. We listed under the Business Incubation Center at National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, so the people there teach us how to apply for grants. They even have more experienced people mentor and train us on the details we need to pay attention to when making a government presentation. I believe this is why we have been able to receive more grants, but I’m not so sure if other teams have had the chance to get this kind of support. It would be really helpful if they could.

The News Lens was sponsored by Taiwan Startup Stadium to attend TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017.

Editor: Edward White