For the June and July 2017 issues of MinistryTech magazine, I interviewed Ai Ching Goh and Andrea Zaggia. Their startup story passes through Italy, England, Malaysia, the United States, and Korea. Here’s part 2:
Last month, I introduced you to Andrea Zaggia and Ai Ching Goh, husband and wife and co-founders of Piktochart. In sharing their story, we learned how God had used technology, and even their web-based business, to bring them to Himself and to saving faith. This month I am pleased to share how God is using them and their business to bless others.
A Transformed Life
As you may recall, Ai Ching was raised in Malaysia. Her family is Buddhist. Growing up, she didn’t even like Christians. She told me “I was wrong my whole life!” Andrea was from Italy where his family identified as Catholics, but the church wasn’t an important part of their life. They met over Skype, then in person. Andrea moved to Malaysia to be with Ai Ching. They started a business together and were married. But they were lost.
Ai Ching said “it’s so hard to work with your spouse. In retrospect, it seems impossible without Christ in the center.” She said that they would often get into heated debates over trivial aspects of the business. They each had a “rights” mentality, insisting on what they thought they deserved.
In Ephesians 4, Paul commends us “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:22-24) He goes on to describe it this way “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph 4:31,32)
Andrea and Ai Ching admit that they aren’t all the way there, but after joining the church, they are being transformed as Paul describes. Now, they always pray together. No longer is it a zero-sum game with one winning and the other losing. They strive to make every decision in one spirit.
Challenged by Scripture
When they joined the church, they also joined a care group in the church that met weekly. The group was studying the book of Daniel. In the first chapter, we see Daniel’s faithfulness demonstrated in verse 8 “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.” We don’t know exactly why Daniel thought the food and wine would defile him, but his faith required separation from the culture around him.
Likewise, Ai Ching was challenged to consider whether she was defiling herself by continuing to engage in the cultural practices with which she had been raised. In her hometown of Penang, there are many idols. It is a common practice to literally eat food offered to idols. Twice in a very short time, Ai Ching ate food that had been offered to idols. Each time, she came down with a very high fever that lasted exactly one day. She understood that she, like Daniel, was to separate herself from the cultural norms that had been defiling her.
Not long after, the care group looked at Daniel 3 and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being bold and standing for their faith. Ai Ching realized that she also needed to be bold. She had been lying to her parents about what she did every Sunday. She realized that she needed to tell them the truth and she shared with them her testimony. Her parents were not happy, but Andrea and Ai Ching were strengthened and encouraged as they continued to grow in their walk with the Lord.
Business and Technology Connections
Being in a country where less than 10% are Christians made it hard for Andrea and Ai Ching to learn how to build a business with Christian values. They turned to Google to try to find Christian mentors. One of the top results was Praxis, who I have featured before. Later, they attended SXSW in Austin and there met Evan Loomis, co-founder of TreeHouse, who had been through the Praxis program. They applied and were accepted into Praxis where they built great relationships with mentors and peers that continue to serve them as they grow in God’s grace.
To summarize some of their key takeaways, each of the Piktochart co-founders shared a verse that guides them. Andrea recited Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” By the world’s standards, entrepreneurs are expected to follow a pattern – raise money fast; fail or succeed fast; fire struggling workers fast. At Piktochart, by God’s grace, they haven’t conformed to this pattern. As I mentioned last month, they had the opportunity to take money from investors, but didn’t feel at peace with the offers. If they had accepted those offers, they now would have investors that would be opposed to many of their current decisions, including tithing from the business to support Kingdom work. God has provided. They haven’t needed outside financing and the business is still growing five years in.
Ai Ching quoted Jesus from Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” As a businessperson, we have so many responsibilities to juggle, including serving customers and employees, ensuring product quality, dealing with never-ending new versions of browser and web standards and technology trends, and adapting to changing market conditions. She says “It is so important not to be focused on these ‘waves’ but on Christ, our Head, who is ready to pull us out when we start to sink.” As Jesus said in John 14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”