Two stories on how being a first-time founder could be a long-term strength, featuring Ajaib’s Yada Piyajomkwan. and WIZ.AI’s Jennifer Zhang

L-R: Ajaib CPO and co-founder Yada Piyajomkwan, WIZ.AI CEO and co-founder Jennifer Zhang

Does one ever stop being a first-time founder? Stories from Ajaib and WIZ.AI

Two stories on how being a first-time founder could be a long-term strength, featuring Ajaib’s Yada Piyajomkwan. and WIZ.AI’s Jennifer Zhang

Two stories on how being a first-time founder could be a long-term strength

On the left is Yada Piyajomkwan from Ajaib, the platform of choice for first-time Indonesian investors to start investing in stocks, mutual funds, and crypto assets, with today more than 3 million users.

On the right is Jennifer Zhang, CEO and co-founder of WIZ.AI, a platform enabling AI transformation for customer experiences and scaling service solutions through pioneering voice and generative AI technologies, with today more than 300 customers from MNCs to banks and fast-growing companies.

While one is in SaaS AI and the other in fintech, both were first-time venture-backed founders when they started these companies and this impacted their approach to uncovering opportunities, growth, and their own personal development:

(1) How inspiration from Silicon Valley turns to real opportunity when returning to Asia

Yada with her fellow Stanford Business School alum Anderson went through the early iterations of Ajaib while they were in the midst of finishing their MBA, inspired by their experiences in the US. During that time they launched their mutual funds product, got into Y Combinator, and raised a seed round. But it was only when she had settled into Indonesia that they began to see even greater opportunity to make a difference in financial literacy and education.

Jennifer also studied and spent part of her early entrepreneurial and VC career in the US, before returning to Asia and getting introduced to Jianfeng Lu and starting WIZ.AI in Singapore. Starting WIZ.AI in Singapore was critical as they were able to uncover the opportunity to pioneer talkbots and AI models designed for Southeast Asia languages and use cases, starting with Singlish.

(2) Valuing the leadership potential of others

Key to Ajaib’s early success with their stock trading product was that they were not only able to acquire a 40 year old stock brokerage as a startup to secure the necessary license, but also develop a product that could launch within a few months and continue to mature with more and more users. Yada’s approach then was to develop a “mini-CEO” mindset and high ownership culture across Ajaib’s product teams.

Today, WIZ.AI serves companies across markets in SEA, LatAm, and beyond, and prides itself on its coverage of various languages and dialects. Part of Jennifer’s approach to this expansion has been to develop WIZ.AI employees into regional leaders through cross-market collaboration, for example bringing together leaders from two different markets to support each other in launching in a third.

(3) Does one really ever stop becoming a “first-time” founder?

Both Yada and Jennifer faced extreme learning curves as first-time founders. Yada has often spoken about the importance of mentors in her journey, while Jennifer has pointed to the importance of growing with her team and putting intellectual honesty first. Through these approaches, both have found ways to overcome the challenges of being a first-time founder while also continuing to have that “learning” mindset even as their companies have scaled in the last few years.

One could argue that being first-time founders has made it easier for them to be more open to experimentation, valuing the leadership potential in others, and never really putting the brakes on learning.

Learn more about Ajaib

Learn more about WIZ.AI

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Paulo Joquiño is a writer and content producer for tech companies, and co-author of the book Navigating ASEANnovation. He is currently Editor of Insignia Business Review, the official publication of Insignia Ventures Partners, and senior content strategist for the venture capital firm, where he started right after graduation. As a university student, he took up multiple work opportunities in content and marketing for startups in Asia. These included interning as an associate at G3 Partners, a Seoul-based marketing agency for tech startups, running tech community engagements at coworking space and business community, ASPACE Philippines, and interning at workspace marketplace FlySpaces. He graduated with a BS Management Engineering at Ateneo de Manila University in 2019.