A serial entrepreneur, investor, and scholar Hovhannes Avoyan is the founder and CEO of Picsart which is the world’s largest creative platform and social editing app with 150M+ monthly creative content creators and more than 1B downloads to date. Prior to Picsart, he founded five startups, all of which had successful acquisitions by global companies like Lycos, Bertelsmann, GFI, TeamViewer, and HelpSystems. He has also been a senior lecturer of computer science at the American University of Armenia and a visiting lecturer at San Francisco State University. The US-based company has been always focused on the Indian market and has been catering to its socially active millennials. The app brand which has a huge following all across the world is further looking to grow in the Indian market and has various ambitious plans ahead. Entrepreneur spoke to Hovhannes Avoyan, Founder & CEO, Picsart on creating the picture-perfect unicorn.
Tell us about your creative side.
I liked art and I was enjoying art but I never became an artist. I was trying to get to art school when I was young. I like and appreciate creative expression. I am trying to be a user on Picsart. I have an account and a following there. I’m experimenting with stuff that I can create. For me, I believe creativity is like a muscle. We need to train it. I feel everybody is creative. We just need to train it.
What led to the start of Picsart?
It’s a personal story, you know when I saw my daughter shocked because of her experience of sharing her work on social networks and getting negative comments from the users. So as a father and entrepreneur I thought of what I can do for her and for people like her to not only be creative but also bring a positive environment. My daughter is now a professional artist and an illustrator. She’s also a part of Picsart.
How big is the global presence of Picsart?
We passed 1 billion installs of our product and our monthly active users. We can talk to about a hundred and fifty million monthly active users. We are the largest in our category of photo and video editing apps.
Could you share about your presence in the Indian market?
We are not sharing the numbers as of now but the presence in the Indian market is really large and also during COVID we saw a big boost in the user installs and downloads. We are globally amongst the 20 most downloaded app. We have been at 14, 15 16, and yes it was including iOS and Android and India is one of the key contributors.
Any insight you could share in terms of the demographics for the Indian market?
The one that I can disclose is that we see more female users than male users in the markets except for India. In India, I will say that male usage is slightly more than female usage.
Globally are there any insights that you wish to share?
We see the increase of the creator’s economy and how people can make money by creating content. And the location is becoming less and less important. And I think it’s an opportunity for countries like India. When people sitting in Delhi or Bangalore can create amazing content and make money. Pandemic is the reason it has accelerated. Pandemic has accelerated the need for creative content. We see businesses move towards digital. So, you know, small restaurants or shops declare web presence, have QR manuals. COVID has accelerated technology adoption. There is a transformation in the way we live, the way we communicate the way we do business, and that in turn creates another, the huge need for content, digital content. Now, with Picsart everybody can create content. You don’t need to go to the designers, spend a big amount of money to get your content. You will basically just need a Smartphone and an app.
The company also, did you undergo any particular changes?
We just closed our seed round and we are very happy and it was interesting that the whole process goes down virtually without meetings in person. Virtual fundraising also creates opportunities with more meetings per day. Before Covid, you can have two meetings per day but with virtual meetings, you can have up to 4 meetings per day. So that’s really helped to increase the bandwidth and now you can approach more investors today than before.
So did you also invest like you’re an investor in your personal capacity? Did you also invest?
I didn’t make any personal investments. I have some past Investments. There are a lot of interesting startups and a lot of interesting opportunities to invest in. We are considering actually one of the reasons we are going to raise the money is for M&A activity, you know, searching and buying some small stocks of companies, which could be complementary to our product.
So, have you made any acquisitions so far?
We made a smaller acquisition 2 years and now we are looking for more.
Okay, so any specific areas wherein you’ll be looking at?
It would mainly be around the content; you know content creation, content distribution, and content consumption. We are looking for something which will contribute to our ecosystem, to our platform.
How was it like in the business environment when father and daughter working together?
I am a tough boss and she knows that. So yeah, so I think rather than that, I think we have two more topics to talk about, which is nice and I also use the opportunity not to be just a father but also a mentor to give her advice on growth, what she can read, and how she can operate in some situations.
What would be your advice to upcoming entrepreneurs?
You should keep trying to make it happen. Every overnight success requires, like, some months, and years of preparation. So that’s something which they should keep in mind. Some entrepreneurs say oh this startup, it’s a great success and they think it’s luck, it’s not lucking It requires hard work, it requires tolerance for failure. It requires resilience. It requires persistence. And if you don’t have all these qualities then probably you’re not fit for a startup. And lastly, the Investments which you have made are any of those from the Indian market? Not yet but I am looking for investment and acquisition opportunities in India. COVID has accelerated technology adoption. There is a transformation in the way we live, the way we communicate, the way we do business, and that in turn creates another, huge need for content, digital content.”
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