Chinese cofounder of an innovative platform for design and marketing services links young talent with corporate clients
(MA XUEJING / CHINA DAILY)
At 28, the smart and ambitious Daisy Guo Xiaoqian remains single — an anathema in a traditional society that dismisses such women as sheng nu or “leftover women”.
In a session at this year’s Davos annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in January, Guo said that in traditional Chinese culture a woman’s success is measured by how well she raises her children and takes care of her family. But, she insisted, “this is no longer true for most women in China”.
“If career success brings a woman happiness, she shouldn’t be judged only by her marriage,” she said.
Guo walks the talk. While she admitted that her family is worried by her single status, she never apologizes for it, nor for any maverick decisions she has made in pursuit of her own happiness.
Guo eschewed the traditional career path of being a corporate employee, by being her own boss. She is the cofounder and chief marketing officer of Tezign — an online platform that connects creative professionals with big companies seeking design and marketing services.
The Shanghai-based tech firm is among China’s fast-rising startups and counts venture capitalists Sequoia Capital as an investor.
Guo has been recognized for her contributions to both the business and arts sectors. She was included in this year’s Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list, named a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum, and is the curator of the Global Shapers Shanghai International Hub.
She has traveled back and forth from China in recent months to attend prestigious international forums, either as a participant or speaker. Such events include the Winter Davos in Switzerland, the Summer Davos in Dalian, in Northeast China’s Liaoning province, the Horasis Global Meeting in Portugal, and the Forbes Under 30 Summit Asia in Manila, the Philippine capital. Guo said these events gave her the opportunity to “communicate with brilliant people”.
“I am quite open-minded and optimistic about change. I feel grateful that the World Economic Forum has provided me great opportunities to join Davos and other high-level and visionary meetings, letting me discuss with and learn from those great minds,” she told China Daily Asia Weekly.
It has been a whirlwind of learning and growing ever since Guo — together with architect/design scholar Ling Fan — set up Tezign in 2013.
At that time, Guo had just obtained a degree in landscape architecture from the prestigious China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.
She also worked as a publicist and curator while studying for her degree and was a part of the curating team for the Chinese pavilion at Venice Biennale 2012, the Architecture China 2013 exhibition in Segovia, Spain, and the Next City project of the annual Beijing Design Week in 2012.
But instead of looking for a job, she set up a business to ease the “inefficient and rigid” collaboration between large corporations and creative talent.
The idea for Tezign stemmed from Guo meeting creative industry professionals who found it difficult to deal with corporate clients and manage the legal and financial aspects of their work.
On the other hand, she also met corporate executives who bemoaned the lack of art and design professionals who can execute their projects.
Seeing a gap in the market, Guo decided to cash in on this unmet demand. “I was thinking, why not develop a platform that could bridge the brands and the creative side, and take care of these issues that puzzle the creative talents?” she said.
So, together with business partner Ling (who is now Tezign’s CEO), Guo used data technology and machine learning to make Tezign a platform that “transformed how brands engage with global creative talents”.
Tezign is an online software-as-a-service platform, embedding in one dashboard, or user interface, the systems required for legal, payment and project management. It serves as a bridge between top-tier design talent and the marketing demands of corporate clients. It frees creatives to focus on the design process without getting distracted by legal issues or paperwork. The matching algorithm ensures the best results for both the creative talent and the client.
In 2016, the partners raised an undisclosed amount in Series A funding from venture capital firms Sequoia Capital, Fenghou Capital and Linear Venture. Guo credits cofounder Ling, their friends and social network for getting the funding needed to grow Tezign.
“We benefited from our friends and a strong social network during the funding process. Many of our investors are introduced by our friends,” she said.
“As for the investors, they always emphasize on whether a project is reasonable or not, whether the company has a vision that they agree with or not, and whether there is a considerable market share. This is also where Tezign wins and we feel lucky and grateful.”
Tezign was initially based in Beijing and Guo said this helped it to grow, as the city has a “friendly culture and environment for startups”.
“The government and organizations in Beijing have provided great support for us in the perspectives of policy and funding. Moreover, the community of startups is beneficial for us. We’ve communicated and learned a lot from each other within the community,” she said.
Four years since its founding, Tezign has served more than 4,000 enterprise users and has listed more than 10,000 design creatives from 16 countries and 74 cities. Most of the talent offers graphic design, UI/UX (user interface, user experience) design, illustration, animation and social marketing services.
Tezign’s clients include fast-growing startups, social organizations and Fortune 500 companies. Among these are big players like Alibaba, Unilever, Starbucks, China Eastern Airlines, Youku, ofo and Uxin.
Guo is proud that Tezign has helped young creative professionals to build their own businesses and increase their earnings.
Tezign is also used as a platform to solve social issues. For instance, Tezign linked Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde with the Beijing-based bike-sharing startup ofo to develop the Smog Free Bicycle in China. The innovative bicycle collects polluted air, purifies it and releases clean air around the cyclist. A prototype of the smog-sucking bike is expected to be released by the end of this year.
Moving forward, Guo is optimistic about China’s creative industry and how this will benefit Tezign. In a panel discussion on Chinese millennials held at this year’s Winter Davos, Guo, who was one of the panelists, said “consumption upgrade” is now a trend among her peers.
“We like shopping and, instead of buying more goods, we are seeking more qualified stuff, more professional services, more value-added brands and more customized experiences,” she said.
Guo said the increased demand for better products and services is driving companies in China to change their branding strategy.
“They are seeking to optimize their branding strategies in order to stand out from the crowd. This trend results in an increasing demand for creative talents and better design which drives marketing growth,” she said.
Guo said Tezign’s top-tier creative talents can meet these companies’ marketing and design needs.
“Tezign provides solutions for companies to achieve marketing campaigns, go global or adapt locally. We believe that excellent creative solutions can help brands with the positioning strategy and achieve long-term growth,” she said.
Daisy Guo Xiaoqian
Chief marketing officer and cofounder, Tezign
2013-present: Chief marketing officer and cofounder, Tezign, Shanghai
2012-13: Assistant project manager, seed Design Studio, Beijing
2011-12: Assistant curator, Fang Media, Beijing
2009-13: Organizer and principal-in-charge, Textent, Beijing
2008-13: Bachelor of landscape architecture, Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing
2017: Included in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list, Enterprise Technology category
2014: Named Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum
What are your favorite art spaces/museums/art galleries?
My favorite art space in China is the CAFA Art Museum (in Beijing), where I’ve seen many exhibitions during my university life, which inspired me a lot. It was designed by Arata Isozaki, the famous Japanese architect. He blended the definition of walls and roofs. There is a gentle arch on the top of the space, and the light comes through the skylight. It stimulates an interesting dialogue between the artwork, the space and the audience.
The New Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece, is another one I love. Designed by the famous architect Bernard Tschumi, the museum is very elegant, and the artworks and relics are quite ancient. The space is designed in a very logical way and the skylight is great.
How does your past experience help you as cofounder of a startup?
My previous job as an assistant curator provided abundant experience in building connections with creative talent worldwide. In my life, I emphasize cultural diplomacy a lot, and I also brought this gene to Tezign.