What this local startup did after pissing me off

This all happened within a month, and I thought in the spirit of Fuckupnights, we can all learn from the incident.

Who’s the startup you ask? Piktochart.

And let me tell you, it’s a startup that I’m truly proud of, because their amazing product and service is one of the few that has gone world-wide. Home-made, preciously-grown in Penang, they are a shining example of startups worth emulating.

Well, then the incident happened.

It all started when out of the blue, one of the younger team members, June, sent me an email to invite me as a speaker at their upcoming quarterly meetup – Webcamp PG. Although it meant I had to travel up north on a weekday, and to arrange accommodation for my 8 year old son at his grandma’s place (life of a single dad), I thanked her for the invitation, and said YES.

As a matter of fact, I was so excited about going up (food and cafes played a role in the decision), I shifted the dates of my email marketing workshop and I’m grateful that the clients who had signed up for it were understanding. June asked me to think of some topics to share, and I thought a re-hashed of recent TEDx talk will be good (I just malas to come up with new slides. Possibly). Heck, I even told some of my friends I’ll be heading up and looking forward for a catchup (over food at cafes).

Sucking never felt so good... balitong!
Sucking never felt so good… balitong!

It all went downhill about a week later when June sent me an email saying that they’ve secured another speaker and would like to shift me to future events. Firstly, my initial reptilian thoughts were “wow, I just got sidelined”, and yeah, the ego got a bit hurt. Then the noble messages of my masters sunk in, and I try to focus on the fact that the other speaker must be really good, and the community are in for a major learning session.

Secondly, I also realised I shifted my workshop dates for nothing! A couple of phone calls later, luckily, I managed to shift the dates back to the original ones, and the clients weren’t too fussy about the double swap. For that, I am forever grateful. I also had to cancel Will’s accommodation arrangements, and the plans to catch up with friends (over food at cafes). #argh

When I told June about the trouble she put me through, her reply, in my opinion, was perceived as too casual, and I felt hurt being just cast aside like that and taken for granted. I thought for a while if I should give her a proper feedback, but decided against it.

Less than 24 hours later, June sent me an email again, saying that they have mistakenly thought they had the second speaker, whom in fact was actually for her other track (they run a dual-track meetup to cater for different target audience), and asked if I’m ok to speak again.

It was then that I got really pissed, and I asked for her manager’s email. I wrote a really long, semi-nasty, mildly-sarcastic, reclusively-dickish email to vent out. As I’ve ran community events before, I always made it a point to value the speakers, partners and participants’ time, because without those three components, the meetups would be nothing. Call it my personal level of professionalism or a deep sense of gratitude, I always respected the time and effort KICKSTART mentors put in, and worked hard to ensure their needs were fulfilled.

(Ok, so they was one time we had a power outage an hour before our event, and Cheryl the founding CEO of MaGIC literally had to give a talk in the kitchen ala pasar-malam style, which until today, is one of the fondest memory of running KICKSTART. Imagine a kitchen space that can only fit 50 at best, and we’ve got over 300+ registrations. Yup, sweaty, heaty, packed, guaranteed-to-die-if-there’s-a-zombie-attack, that’s the picture.)

Yeap, no shit! We broke all safety regulations that night.
Yeap, no shit! We broke all safety regulations that night.

For behind the scenes and full director commentary of that pasar-malam KICKSTART event, read here.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the story.

I was very disappointed and sad, and to think I’ve always recommended Piktochart during my consultation sessions and workshops, because it’s such an awesome tool! Malaysiaboleh, man! Plus, there were a couple of other disappointments the happened that week involving other startup founders (that’s for another blog post), so I guess the frustration just piled up.

Have startups become so growth-focused that they have lost the basic sense of common courtesy?

Are founders lacking in corporate experience to lead teams effectively?

Have I been such a dick to deserve such a treatment?

Ok, the last one is probably most deserving. #admitted

Enter Shen, the manager.

She was apologetic, took responsibility, and explained how she had learned from the experience. I was quick to forgive also lar (in my frustration I went to buy a new smartphone already. #retailtherapy). I told her that it’s good that she’s aware of it, and the fact that she’s willing to be accountable showed, to me at least, that she has a growth-mindset. Some offers of coffee here and there, and future invitations to speak at their meetup aside, we parted in good terms, and I thought that was over.

But it didn’t.

A few days ago, super out of the blue, I got an email from Ai Ching, the co-founder of Piktochart. She, too, apologised for the trouble her team had caused, and was very sincere in her message. She admitted to the mistake her team had made, and assured me that they would be more mindful in future. She even asked me, in the closing of the email, what they can do to make things better.

I wrote back to her, thanking her for the email, and told her she has reassured me that behind the great product that Piktochart is, is truly great leadership. I said it’s already in the past (I’ve since then bought a new casing for the phone too), complimented Shen for taking responsibility of the situation (even though the mistake wasn’t directly due to her) and even told Ai Ching that Shen’s good sense of accountability is a reflect of her own leadership style, and she’s indeed lucky to have a great, growth-minded team.

And I thanked Ai Ching for her sharing at the recent BFM Enterprise Breakaway (although I was still partly sore from the incident), and told her to continue building awesome products, because she has succeeded in converting my very savvy (codename: cheapass) girlfriend to subscribe to Piktochart’s services.

As I am closing this blog post, I reflected on one remark that I constantly get about the new generation of entrepreneurs; of how they lacked the professionalism, values, respect, experience and leadership skills. But now, gladly, I have a true tale of two leaders (and more to come for sure) that are reminding us that there still is hope, that they are still willing to learn and grow, and that we are not deprived of good leadership at all.

John Maxwell once told me that great leaders are usually found in times of crisis, challenge and change. Couldn’t agree more, John.

Maverick Foo

Co-Founder of KICKSTART by night, Talent Development Consultant, organising workshops and conferences by day, and full-time single dad in between, Maverick is pretty much a renegade. An ex-monk who's always first to ask "why not?", Mav enjoys hacking the way things are done, and pretty much happy with the success rate of 50% (coz sometimes mom is right after all...). When it comes to business, give him a million bucks and he'll most probably get a new set of gadgets, drive home an Audi R8 and reload his Starbucks card. But give him little to nothing, and see how he starts switching on the little brain-matter between his ears. Challenge ACCEPTED!

2 comments

  1. Totally awesome stuff here bro 😉

  2. It’s one of the most interesting kickstart event despite it being in the kitchen ok!

    Learning ok lesson of responsibility & sincerity here. 🙂 Agree 100%!

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