Pinkoi 顏君庭

連結亞洲設計力
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2013 / 5月

文‧劉嫈楓╱滕淑芬 圖‧Pinkoi 提供


Pinkoi自比為一隻有愛心、有智慧的錦鯉,他們善於挖掘出藏在台灣街角的設計品牌。受到美國矽谷創業文化洗禮的創辦人顏君庭,以靈活先進的科技技術,連結生活中的設計產品,透過網路傳遞幸福美感。

短短3年,Pinkoi集結了海內外七千多位設計師,五萬多件創意商品,展現出台灣巨大的設計能量。


每逢假日,台北華山文創園區的廣場就是國內設計師的創作舞台,從簡單的T恤、天然手工皂,到畫風細膩的插畫本、做工繁複的皮件飾品等,琳瑯滿目的設計作品呈現在地的手作感動。

然而,若遇上寒流來襲或颳風下雨,露天市集的創作者不免擔心人氣下滑。現在,台灣第一個專門為設計師打造的網路平台Pinkoi,讓消費者不必出門,就能盡情瀏覽設計師的創意結晶。

2010年9月上線的Pinkoi網站,至今累積了由七千多名設計師打造的一千多個品牌,五萬八千多件商品。小至貼紙、零錢包、手機外殼,大到吊燈、收納櫃等居家用品,是一個堅持只賣好設計與原創商品的網購平台。

Pinkoi的頁面設計,簡約乾淨,沒有廣告欄位,清楚的圖示就像是設計品的百貨櫥窗;其中的產品圖面多由設計師自己製作,充滿了個人特色。

理念:設計師「賣」設計,消費者「品」設計

Pinkoi的logo有一尾帶有愛心的桃紅色小魚,這個品牌名頗有深意,koi是日文的錦鯉,代表好運,也有歡迎的意思;結合桃紅色與愛心這兩個視覺意象,創業團隊希望用愛心挖掘出更多潛藏在台灣街角的好設計,也要像小魚一樣力爭上游,創造更多設計產業的核心價值。

「我希望Pinkoi能協助台灣設計向外拓展,更希望成為亞洲第一的設計網路平台,」35歲的創辦人顏君庭展現自信的口吻說。

對設計擁有滿滿熱情的顏君庭,其實是個設計門外漢。他畢業自台灣大學土木系,2002年赴美取得卡內基美隆大學資訊碩士後,先後進入趨勢科技、雅虎總部任職,在舊金山矽谷工作7年,是位典型的工程師,年薪高達數百萬元台幣。

充滿活力與創意的矽谷,是全球創業者的夢土。在這裡,顏君庭見識到許多人在創業路上跌跌撞撞,又重返職場沉潛,只為累積東山再起的剛強意志。在灣區隨便一家咖啡廳裡,鄰桌不修邊幅的工程師,都在說創業計畫,這種無畏失敗的創業氛圍,深深感染了他。

進入雅虎第2年,顏君庭就透過內部創業機制,推出全球網路產品「Yahoo!Answers(雅虎知識+)」。眼見團隊從5人成長到二百多人,就好像看到自己的創業心血逐漸茁壯;後來,有幾位核心成員離職,跑去創業,雅虎陸續併購Flickr等網站,許多外部創業家成為他的同事後,創業念頭也悄悄在他的心中萌芽。

作法:土法煉鋼,勤於拜訪設計師

然而,要放棄灣區安逸與高薪的生活,需要很大的決心,他花了一年半的時間才說服家人,2009年帶著妻小返台。

他也曾問過朋友要不要一起打拚,但沒有人願意放棄現職,後來在網路論壇上結識了交大土木系畢業、在故鄉金門賣冰的李讓;又透過朋友引薦,找到畢業自政大廣告系、紐約帕森設計學院,在矽谷新創公司工作的林怡君,創業團隊才一一到齊。

靠著3人集資的50萬元,顏君庭先在台北家中隔出2坪的書房充當辦公室,由他與李讓負責建置網路技術後台,林怡君主掌視覺設計,不支薪的3人,全靠儲蓄過活。

對台灣設計環境並不熟悉的顏君庭,曾將他的創業夢就教於國內設計界前輩,結果對方潑了一盆冷水表示,在台灣有品牌的設計作品,兩隻手就數完了,勸他早點放棄。沒有知名度、沒有人脈,Pinkoi初創時幾乎找不到設計師與產品。

不在乎別人看衰,顏君庭土法煉鋼,勤走創意市集、設計展會,甚至夜市,以腳踏實地的方式經營,發掘出適合的設計作品。

習慣以直接切入主題的西式文化來思考亞洲市場的他,也慢慢調整作法。例如若遇見有潛力的設計師,直接遞名片不一定能奏效,他不會開門見山詢問對方電話或電子郵件,「我會問他們的品牌概念是什麼,聽他們說說設計理念、設計故事,拉近距離。」又如,國內很多設計師都是年輕女性,顏君庭會帶著妻子、孩子一起逛市集,以降低對方誤以為自己是來搭訕的疑慮。

但即使如此,顏君庭還是嚐了好幾回閉門羹。

以印花布飾為素材,推出書衣、抱枕產品的印花樂創辦人沈弈妤,猶記一年多前,顏君庭親自找上門的經過。

當時第一次交談沒有具體結果,半年後,顏君庭又帶著夥伴們來,仔細述說Pinkoi期待為台灣設計界拓展能見度的理念,才打動了沈弈妤。

夢想:攜手7,000名設計師同行

27歲、師大美術系畢業的沈弈妤,2008年和另兩位好友,以教育部U-start育成計畫的創業資金35萬元,成立了「印花樂」。剛開始在小店寄賣,後來進駐誠品書店設櫃,漸漸立下口碑。2011年2月,印花樂在迪化街上租下一間店面,團隊也各自辭去工作,專心經營品牌。

沈弈妤表示,成熟的設計產業分工精細,需要有人負責設計,有人專事生產與銷售。「國內現有的網站,沒有專為文創產品打造的銷售平台,Pinkoi正好補上了這塊銷售環節。」

除了以誠心打動,Pinkoi更直接改變網路平台的傳統銷售分成比例,它不收上架費,更將交易金額的9成直接回饋給設計者,也找來超商合作,以方便消費者付費。看在沈弈妤眼中,種種讓利潤回歸設計師,使設計師與顧客形成良好循環的善意,在國內絕無僅有。

「Pinkoi不只是賣產品,它販賣的是一種風格。尤其在價格廝殺的網購市場中,Pinkoi有所堅持,從來不打價格戰,」2011年將手工製作的女鞋Full Creator上架的設計師陳思伃說。

從零開始,Pinkoi上線的第一年,設計師少、商品也少;第二年,就快速累積了四千多位設計師,六百多個品牌的作品,甚至開始有設計師想辭掉工作,專心從事設計,這讓顏君庭既開心又備感壓力。

顏君庭說,國內設計業尚在起步階段,不少設計師都是利用餘暇時間兼顧自己熱愛的設計工作;如今透過這個平台,台灣有越來越多的設計作品可以銷往全世界,目前Pinkoi約有2成業績來自海外,希望未來能有更多創作者將設計當作一生志業。

目標:連結亞洲設計力

短短3年,Pinkoi的設計師已飆升至七千多位,呈倍數成長。

「台灣竟然有這麼多設計師,這麼多設計品牌!」顏君庭說,很多人聽他說完創業過程後都有這樣的反應,但數字絕不只如此,因為Pinkoi平均每天都有30個品牌申請上架。

串聯了一千多個品牌,也讓顏君庭進一步思考,如何讓品牌連結,開出更燦爛的火花。

為此,Pinkoi會定期舉辦設計師講座,協助他們調整文案內容和產品照片的呈現方式,也會建議服飾品牌製作新一季型錄時,和項鍊飾品結合,分享搭配心得,發揮更大效益。

以台灣為中心,顏君庭更往前看到亞洲設計力的智慧價值,希望能連結泰國、日本、上海的設計能量。而第一步就是帶領國內設計師走出台灣;去年中,台灣創意中心推薦了17個品牌去香港參加設計展,其中11個就來自Pinkoi合作的品牌。

長期觀察國外手作設計平台市場的顏君庭指出,總部在紐約、2005年上線的Etsy,是全球最大的手工藝品交易網站,它讓數十萬名設計師的創業夢想成真,至今會員超過2,500萬人,作品有1,800萬件,2012年的營業額高達8.9億美元,成長速度驚人。

3年營運,現在Pinkoi的單月營收已穩定達到台幣百萬元,員工也從3人增加到8人。繼日前推出英文版介面搶攻國際市場後,今年更將香港視為重點經營城市,希望慢慢打入泰國、新加坡、中國大陸等地,朝著「亞洲第一」的方向邁進。

Pinkoi辦公室外有一面塗鴉牆,方便同仁隨時隨地將天馬行空的創意寫下來。這個年輕團隊用行動、用熱情灌溉一座設計園地,細心照顧園內每一株花,期待百花盛開,生意盎然!

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近期文章

EN

Peter Yen and Pinkoi

Connecting Designers with Consumers

Liu Yingfeng and Teng Sue-feng /photos courtesy of courtesy of Pinkoi /tr. by Geof Aberhart

Much like their semi-namesake the koi (ornamental carp), Pin­koi is talented at revealing treasures from the depths, albeit the hidden depths of Taiwanese design rather than a fishpond. Founder Peter Yen, already experienced in the startup culture of Silicon Valley, chose to turn his technical prowess to connecting up with designers through the Internet. Now, in just three short years, Pin­koi has attracted over 7000 designers from Taiwan and abroad selling some 50,000-plus products, becoming a shining example of Taiwan as a design power-player.


Every weekend, the plazas of Tai­pei’s Hua­shan 1914 Creative Park become a stage for local designers to show off their wares. From simple T-shirts to detailed artworks and complex leather goods, the variety of eye-catching design work is a powerful exhibition of local talent.

But when the winter cold or summer typhoons hit, exhibitors at this open-air market can’t help but worry that visitor numbers will be affected. Now, thanks to ­Pin­koi, Taiwan’s first online platform tailored to designers, potential customers don’t even need to leave home to browse and buy the creative fruits of such designers’ labors.

Since going live in September 2010, Pin­koi has attracted over 7000 designers and over 1000 brands with more than 55,000 products. From stickers and coin purses to hanging lamps and storage cabinets, as long as it’s original and well designed, you can probably find it on Pinkoi.

A Silicon Valley start

Pinkoi’s logo, which features a cute pink fish, is an interesting work of design in itself. The fish represents the “koi” (Japanese for carp), which is considered good luck and a sign of welcome, while the pink coloring and the heart aim to symbolize the team’s passion for hunting down treasures in the hidden corners of Taiwan’s design world. At the same time, the fish design brings to mind the idea of fish swimming upstream, a metaphor for Pin­koi’s fight to strengthen the core values of the design industry.

“What I want is for Pin­koi to help Taiwanese designers get international exposure, as well as for it to become Asia’s number-one design platform,” says 35-year-old founder Peter Yen confidently.

Yen may have a passion for design, but he is also something of an outsider to it. After graduating with a degree in civil engineering from National Taiwan University, Yen traveled to the US in 2002 to study for a graduate degree in information technology at Carnegie Mellon University. Then, that qualification in hand, he started a seven-year career in Silicon Valley, first working with Trend Micro, then with Yahoo!

To set up shop in the innovative and vibrant environment of Silicon Valley is the dream of many aspiring entrepreneurs around the world. Working there, though, Yen also saw how many people stumble and fall along the entrepreneurial path, and how an iron will is necessary to dust yourself off and keep going after such slips.

In his second year at Yahoo!, Yen founded Yahoo! Answers via the company’s internal entrepreneurship program. In the blink of an eye, his team went from five people to over 200, and seeing his baby succeed as it did inspired Yen to begin thinking about other entrepreneurial options.

Pounding the pavement

But giving up a well-paid job and the comfortable Bay Area lifestyle was a decision not to be taken lightly, and it was only after a year and a half of convincing that Yen was able to talk his family around. In 2009, he, his wife, and their young child packed up and returned to Taiwan.

He asked some friends if they wanted in, but none were willing to give up the jobs they already had, so he turned to the Internet, contacting Mike Lee, a National Chiao Tung University civil engineering graduate he had met on an online forum. Then, through a friend, the pair were put in touch with Mai­belle Lin, a graduate of National Cheng­chi University’s advertising program and Parsons The New School for Design in New York, who was working at WiFi­Slam, a company in Silicon Valley.

After the three collected startup funds of NT$500,000, Yen created an office in a seven-square-meter study in his home and began working with Lee on the website’s back end, while Lin worked on the visual design.

Initially, being unfamiliar with the status of Taiwan’s design industry, Yen sought advice from an industry veteran, only to have his parade promptly rained on as his advisor pointed out that the number of established brands that could be suitable partners for Pin­koi was so small you could count them on the fingers of two hands. With no name recognition and no connections, Pin­koi’s biggest problem in those early days was finding designers and products.

But while others were ready to be discouraging, Yen redoubled his efforts, heading out to creative markets, design exhibitions, and even night markets in search of the right products for the site.

Shen Yiyu, founder of Studio in­Blooom—which creates printed fabric book covers, pillow cases, and the like—still remembers the day a little over a year ago when Yen first came to her studio.

While their first meeting had no concrete results, several months later Yen and his partners returned to the studio with specifics about how Pin­koi intended to raise the visibility of Taiwanese design, and they talked Shen around.

The dream: 7000 designers

Shen, a 27-year-old National Taiwan Normal University fine arts graduate, founded Studio in­Blooom with two friends in 2008 after being awarded NT$350,000 through the Ministry of Education’s U-Start New Graduates Startup Program. After starting out selling to small stores, the company later got their products into Eslite Bookstores, gradually building word of mouth. In February 2011, they rented a storefront on Tai­pei City’s Di­hua Street, and the team all quit their day jobs to focus on the growing business.

The design industry is one requiring many specialist skills, as Shen explains, requiring not only someone to handle the actual design work, but also people to focus on production and sales. “Most of the design-oriented websites in Taiwan right now haven’t really focused on building a sales platform, creating a niche that Pin­koi fills perfectly.”

Pin­koi has also taken a different tack to other online platforms in terms of commissions and fees, charging no listing fees and sending 90% of each transaction to the designer. They’ve also partnered with convenience stores to make it easier for customers to collect their purchases. To Shen, the decision to allow designers to enjoy more of the profits has helped create a virtuous circle between designers and customers, as well as making Pin­koi unique in Taiwan.

Peter Yen believes that with Taiwan’s design industry still in its early stages and so many designers devoting their spare time to their beloved design work, a website like Pinkoi will be able to connect more and more local designers with the global market—already some 20% of Pinkoi’s business comes from abroad. He also hopes that through such opportunities, they will be able to help more and more designers make a living off their design work.

Connecting Asian designers

In just three short years, Pinkoi has grown rapidly, with over 7000 designers already signed up.

“I never realized there were so many designers and so many brands in Taiwan!” says Yen, sharing the common response to explanations of his work. But the impressive numbers don’t end there! Every day, Pinkoi also sees an average of 30 brands apply for listing on the site.

With over 1000 brands already on the site, Yen has begun thinking about the next step: connecting brands together.

To that end, Pinkoi organizes regular design seminars, teaching designers how to write better copy for and take better photos of their products, as well as suggesting accessory brands to pair with new seasons’ clothing designs. Such sharing of knowledge is already boosting brands’ effectiveness.

Having started out focused on Taiwan, Yen is already looking to the wider Asian design market, aiming to connect designers not only in Taiwan, but also in Thailand, Japan, and China. The first step toward this is helping Taiwanese designers expand their reach beyond their own shores, and already Pinkoi is seeing success in this regard—when the Taiwan Design Center recommended 17 brands last year for inclusion in a design exhibition in Hong Kong, 11 of them were brands working with Pinkoi.

Yen has already done his homework on the global online design platform space. He points to the surprising growth of Etsy, which launched in New York in 2005 and has become the world’s biggest crafts sales website with over 25 million members and 18 million items; already Etsy has helped thousands and thousands of designers realize their dreams of making a living off their love, and the site itself made a whopping US$890 million in 2012. Pinkoi hopes to follow suit and become Asia’s number-one site for one-of-a-kind handicrafts.

After three years of work, today Pinkoi enjoys monthly operating revenues of at least NT$1 million, and currently the team is working on the next step toward becoming Asia’s number one, an English-language version of the website.

Through action and passion, Yen and his team have created a nourishing garden for Taiwanese design to grow and bloom in, and with continued care of these seedlings, Pinkoi promises to dazzle and delight well into the future.

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