The six-month-old PIF, led by two Singaporean founders, moved to Silicon Valley to launch its mobile app — the ‘Tinder for global ecosystems’
You might have read Singapore entrepreneur Michael Cho’s tips on getting noticed at a hotly-anticipated tech conference and thought about the ways that you too, could hack TechCrunch Disrupt.
But who is the startup behind the pro tip blog post? We had a chat with PIF Co-founder Kenneth Chew who said that for TC Disrupt, it really came down to three things: Being as prepared as possible, thinking differently and punching above their weight.
“Our starting point was we thought of what others were likely to do and we decided NOT to do those things. We thought about how to cut above the noise and it involved a lot of pushing the limits and boundaries that were set by the organisers and not taking no for an answer. In short, we hustled like crazy,” said Chew.
The two-man team of hustlers are building the “Tinder for global tech ecosystems” which has the PIF algorithm matching their users up in one-to-one chats based on who is most interesting or relevant.
As PIF, which currently has 4,000 users, gathers steam and more data points, Chew said that they’ll incorporate some machine learning capabilities to make referrals more relevant. Ultimately, as PIF wins more users in global tech communities, they’ll be able to refer more profiles of people that can offer either something to your business or an introduction to someone you want to meet.
Unlike Tinder, which just offers location-based one-to-one matching, PIF (which stands for ‘Pay it Forward’) requires users to trade private access to themselves in order to gain access to a connection they want to make. Connections can also be made across the globe, not limited to the current city you’re in. This kind of social interaction on the app is similar to real-life networking scenarios where you need that well-connected person to make introductions for you. In the mobile app world, Chew said that PIF will be that someone.
“Eventually, PIF will become like that guy at the party that knows everyone and will introduce you to people who are interesting and relevant to you.”
Although they’re currently testing the app within the tech community, Chew said that their big picture plan is to connect people across verticals and geographies. An app like PIF could get interesting for those tech scene influencers that travel a lot, and are altruistic enough to meet and connect those outside of their network.
The six-month-old startup officially launched at TechCrunch Disrupt and is looking to raise a first round of funding to hire some engineers. Chew said that tech talent is needed to speed up iterations and run product experiments. Early next year, PIF will be launching a new feature centered around video recording snippets which will let their users better tell their stories and enhance the overall people discovery process.
Engineers by training, the two Singaporean co-founders were bonded to Temasek Holdings and the Singapore Economic Development Board where they worked in investments and business development. After taking the plunge to work on PIF full-time in May 2015, the duo moved shop to Silicon Valley to build their startup and tackle the US market.
“Given PIF is a consumer social networking platform, we figured that a larger, culturally homogeneous market like the United States would make it worth the investment,” said Chew. Besides a better market fit, Silicon Valley is a diverse and mature ecosystem that gives startups arguably easier access to talent, mentorship and venture funding.
Chew recommends other Singapore startups also try their luck in Silicon Valley, but only after a mindset shift.
“I would encourage them to come to Silicon Valley but only if they’re seriously willing to step out of the comfort zone of what they think or know is possible or allowed,” said Chew. “And they’ll have to be willing to hustle and hack their way into this new market.”
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