Mind on Design: Interview with Pinkoi Founder Peter Yen

What’s the perfect follow-up job for a former start-up wunderkind with a degree  in computer science and a love for all things Anthropologie?

So lay the predicament of Peter Yen, one of the founders of Pinkoi.com, a Taiwanese site aiming to present good design, made by Asian designers to the very same Asian market.

Peter Yen, in his Silicon Valley days, headed up the development of Yahoo! Answers, so it wasn’t too hard to think of a solution: move back to Taipei, and start a company that promoted his passion for design.

After graduating from National Taiwan University with a degree in Computer Science, Peter worked in the start-up world in Silicon Valley for four years, where he met many designers and creative types through his position at Yahoo!. “Everyone had different interests and talents apart from work,” mused Peter. “I worked with the Flickr team and other innovative, creative people, and I was really influenced by the creative American start-up work environment. I started to develop my own interest: an interest in design.”

What started as an innocent appreciation for good design soon saw Peter trawling flea markets and design shops all over Northern California. He began refurbishing furniture and collecting design pieces. His favorite shop? Clothing retailer Anthropologie, famed for their creative window displays and unique products.

Upon moving to Taipei, Peter saw a need for a design platform for Asia. “Asia has some  excellent design in addition to being a manufacturing hub, so I saw a great potential market,” explained Peter “The only thing needed was something to unite designers and educate the market.”

Who’s behind Pinkoi?

Peter: There are three co-founders behind Pinkoi. Maibelle (“Mai”) is currently still based in SF, and Mike who came on board to work on engineering. We currently have eight people on the Pinkoi team.

After starting earlier last year, Pinkioi has already received a round of “angel funding” from investors that enabled all the founders to shift to working on Pinkoi full-time.

How does Pinkoi work? How can designers sell products on Pinkoi? 

Peter: Pinkoi is a design lifestyle and community that essentially functions as a design eco-system. It groups designers together in an online community of good design products, an environment where they can grow from  small brand to a bigger brand on the same platform.

We are both approached by and approach designers (we have two curators on the Pinkoi team), who we then work with personally to list products on the site. It’s free for designers to get approved to sell on the site; and once they make a sale on Pinkoi, we receive 10% of the purchase price, the designer takes the rest.

We currently have over 7,000 designers working with Pinkoi. The application process is relatively hassle-free; a designer can get approved in three to five days. Abut 10% have full-time job as designers; a statistic that’s increased in the past year–we hope that’s at least in part due to Pinkoi! Once a product is purchased, designers ship themselves.

Why is there a need for Pinkoi? 

Peter: We saw in Taiwan (and Asia in general) that there were lots of designers but not enough places to sell their designs. There was also no platform that specially focused on design. On large, varied marketplaces like Yahoo!;  essentially, design products are still invisible.

Eslite was one of the first options that opened in Taiwan, but only well-known sellers have the chance to work with Eslite. The next step to look for coffee shops, but they often have specific tastes and many physical stores can take up to 40-55% of the final sale price. Many designers can’t afford to stay in design and in the end; the profit is not worth their time.

Unlike (American counterpart) Etsy, Pinkoi is curated because not everyone has the same notion of “design”. Through careful curation, we are educating the Asian market on design.

Who are Pinkoi’s main customers?

Peter: Currently, apart from Taiwan, our biggest market is Hong Kong, then US. Japan, Malaysia, Singapore are also significant markets.  

What is your opinion on the Taiwan design scene? What is special about it?

Peter: The design scene is definitely growing and changing; it has to do with changes in society. Taiwanese people used to devote themselves entirely to their work during the day and go home around midnight. However, things are different now: Taiwanese want to have a personal life now; they want have their own interests and spend more time at home, get off work earlier. And when they do get home from work, they want to see a well-decorated home that reflects their tastes.

Can you introduce a  favorite Pinkoi product that you’ve bought from the site? 

I love my lamp, made by Tainan-based designer MoziDozen. The base is made of  a special fragrant  Taiwanese wood with a handmade Japanese paper lampshade. (View the lamp and MoziDozen’s other designs here)

How can people incorporate good design in their daily lives? 

Peter: On Facebook, our Pinkoi fan page is the medium that we use to share lifestyle ideas, give suggestions, post inspiration photos, and more. It can be an idea as simple as a suggestion to paint your room a different color. We want people to stop  and actual think about how they are living their lives, and for them to live more deliberately.

Boutique restaurants: good design tableware; interesting presentation: choosing deliberately. People are looking for this because the popularity of those restaurants; but they can experience that in their home (and at an affordable budget).

Any recommended design spots around the city? 

  1. “The Zhongshan area is one of the best areas in Taipei, full of boutiques and good design; you can just walk around in the small alleys and lanes; you don’t even have to buy anything. I love (the shop) Booday.
  2. Simple Market (and coffee-shop Good Cho’s)
  3. “I really enjoy Huashan 1914 Cultural Park and Songshan Cultural Park; lots of interesting exhibits and shops with good design in both areas.”

What do you love about Taiwanese design?

 I would describe Taiwanese design and designers as “hidden gems”; they’ve been invisible for a long time, but we’re working to change that. The design community is a huge magnet, collecting all these hidden gems; and Pinkoi’s mission is to make them shine. Our goal is to end up with happy customers who use Pinkoi designs to brighten their everyday life; and  happy designers, as well. We hope Pinkoi give them encouragement to lead a life that they really want; and design for people. Customers and designers alike can grow together on Pinkoi.

Here our some of our own favorite “hidden gems” found on Pinkoi…

Taiwanese Pride Poster from TaiwanHearts

Lamp from MoziDozen (Peter’s favourite!)

Cutlery Set from InBloom

Rhino Bag from BugEyed

Another cool feature: Pinkoi currently has a “Christmas gift idea generator” on their website that can offer gift recommendations for everyone on your list. The process is simple: answer a few questions (boy or girl? family or friend? favorite color? interests?) and the generator will offer up a selection of gifts within your selected price range. Brilliant! Browse and click away!

Pinkoi Chinese Website
Pinkoi English Website
(some vendor information/listings still in Chinese)
Pinkoi Facebook Page

Want to snag one of the cool items above for yourself? Or check out some of the other amazing stuff offered on the site?  Lucky for you, we’re now offering our readers a special discount! Visit Pinkoi, the biggest online design community and marketplace in Taiwan, and use code “@taipei543″ for 5% off any purchase (valid until 12/31/2012). Happy shopping!



Event Website: http://city543.com/taipei//neon-run-5k/

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Jeremy Blum commented

great article :) love to see successful taiwan startups like this

Cindi commented

I just bought stuff on Pinkoi. Love it!

Jerry Tsai commented

great job~

Maki Yang commented

Pinkoi Team ! You Rock!

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