Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022: Phoebe Jiang and Simon Wong are capturing big wins with Pixieset

Around 800,000 photographers have used Pixieset, but its creators want the platform to go even further.

Pixieset founders by Tanya Goehring

Credit: Tanya Goehring. Pixieset founders Simon Wong and Phoebe Jiang

Around 800,000 photographers have used Pixieset, but its creators want the platform to go even further

I’m halfway through a conversation with the founders of Pixieset and Phoebe Jiang has already fact-checked her co-founder and husband. Twice. BCBusiness can’t thank Jiang enough for doing our work for us as she politely reminds Simon Wong that the company’s first employee was hired in 2015 and it raised its Series A funding round and acquired a European company in 2021.

“That’s why we’re partners,” says Wong with a big smile after the second correction. But really, who can blame him for being a little hazy on the details—especially since the company has grown from some 35 people in 2020 to around 150 today.

Pixieset was founded in 2013 by Jiang, a business administration grad and former bank employee, and Wong, a software developer, to help users upload and send photos. The company went through what Wong calls a “journey of growing sustainably” until the pandemic hit.

“Phoebe and I asked ourselves if we should take more risks,” recalls Wong. “The business had grown beyond what we had envisioned and it had so much potential. We owed it to our users and employees to take it bigger so that we could create more value for the photography industry.” So it was then that the company raised money for the first time and acquired Moldova-based Flothemes, a WordPress website designer for photographers. That move meant that Pixieset almost doubled its staff overnight.

“Acquiring [Flothemes], where they were fully remote, was unimaginable before COVID,” says Jiang. “But because of that experience, we were like, yeah, we can work remotely. Same with raising the money. We raised that round and closed the deal without meeting the investors in-person—a leap of faith.”

To date, some 800,000 photographers have used Pixieset, and the company, along with its cofounders, keeps evolving. “When we started we didn’t even know there were 800,000 photographers in the world,” says Jiang with a laugh. But while the mission at the start was to make it easier on the next Annie Leibovitz, that goal has now changed to lifting up the entire industry.

According to the couple, the first five years were focused on one thing: creating a product called Client Gallery, which helps photographers deliver photos. Then, five years ago, Pixieset became an all-in-one platform for photographers that helped build their websites with an e-commerce solution and built-in CRM capabilities that helps clients get paid and sign contracts.

Now the company is at another turning point. “Can we grow the professional photography industry in a way that we can get people to hire more photographers and to take more photos?” asks Wong. “We want to get to a place where everyone feels like it’s easy enough and comfortable enough to hire a photographer for things like team events and birthday parties.”

Many entrepreneurs start companies with the intention of solving their own problems, and while that’s not Pixieset’s story, it has started to become it. With two young daughters at home, the duo has tried to capture as many moments as possible.

“Before I had kids, I didn’t take many photos,” admits Jiang. “Now with my newborn, we did maternity shoots and whenever we go on vacation or anything we want photos taken. Photography is a noble profession: it helps capture your fondest memories and it helps small businesses market themselves. Some people don’t consider it a real profession sometimes, but it’s actually really needed—it powers a lot of the economy. Our vision is to elevate the whole GDP of the industry.”

And just like the business, the relationship at the heart of it has had phases as well. “Every year is different and we’re always levelling up how we can work together as both professional and life partners,” says Wong. “There are definitely challenges—your personal and work time blends together, unfortunately.”

But the relationship can also have its benefits. “When you’re always on the same page, you can talk about business and make decisions quickly,” Wong continues. “Sometimes we say it’s our secret weapon, because we can always be so aligned in terms of our company and the direction of it.”

10 Questions With Phoebe Jiang and Simon Wong

What was your first summer job?

Simon – Cashier at a Stanley Park concession stand

Phoebe – Babysitter for neighbour

Is an entrepreneur born or made?

Entrepreneurs are made. Entrepreneurs do not grow overnight. It requires significant discipline, courage and sacrifices over many years to create a successful business.

What is your definition of success?

Our definition of success is to make a positive impact in the world. For us, our mission is to empower creatives to run a business and to bring more professional photography to the world.

What other job might you have had?

Phoebe: Teacher. I love teaching young children.

Simon: Robotic engineer. I love creating things. If I am not creating software, I would love to create robotic products.

Name one thing people would be surprised to learn about you.

We both love the TV show Survivor.

Finish this sentence for us: “Entrepreneurs need a lot more…”

Time. Running a business takes up a lot of the limited time we have. If we had more time, we would definitely spend more time on family, friends, hobbies and more.

What businessperson do you most admire?

Steve Jobs. His obsession with creating perfect products inspired many of our product philosophies.

What do you do to relax/unwind?

Walking in the trails/woods.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Authentic leadership. As leaders, we believe in being genuine, self-aware and transparent.

Name an item you typically forget to pack on business trips and regret not bringing.

Nothing. We tend to always overpack.