If an Image is worth a thousand words, then infographics are invaluable. And if you are in the startup space then Anna Vital is a name you can immediately associate with. A startup evangelist and infographic author, Anna is the founder of ‘Funders and Founders’. Yes, that logo which you’ve seen on numerous startups and productivity related infographics.
YourStory spoke to Anna Vital to find out what inspires her and raison d’etre.
YS: What are the few things from your childhood which shaped your world view?
Anna: When I was in the first grade, I remember my teacher telling me that it was easy to be smart, but it was more difficult and more important to be wise. It was a revelation for me. So I asked why she can't teach us to be wise. She said the goal of learning was to throw as much contradictory information at us as possible. And only those who learned to decide what was important and what was not got to be the wise kids. I think since then in my worldview being smart isn’t a goal. Knowing what matters and what doesn't is.
YS: What led you to start Funders and Founders and create infographics? What was your ‘aha! moment'?
Anna: I came across an infographic once, I don't remember which one, and I thought to myself it would be so much better if all books had infographics then I needn’t read the whole book because infographics made so much sense. So then I started translating my thoughts into infographics. Basically, thoughts like the meaning of life, how to succeed, and so on. I always wanted to know why some people succeed and others don't.
YS: How much effort and time goes behind creating an Infographic from sourcing the data to deciding the image format etc.?
Anna: Sometimes it takes two weeks, sometimes it takes just three days, but everything that is contained in the infographic probably has been sitting in my head for a really long time. That’s because so far I've only made graphics about things I really care about. Usually these have been things like ‘how to be productive’ – it is perhaps just a reflection of me wanting to be somebody better, wanting to be successful, but at the same time feeling inadequate.
YS: What you are doing requires a lot of work, both in terms of research and resources. How does it keep you motivated?
Anna: Well, what requires the most effort is when you want to say something but it does not come out exactly the way you want... like right now I'm working on something; I have this idea and when I try to make it, it just doesn't look that good. And at that point it is just so easy to move on or feel de-motivated. But what keeps me going is that I've learned that if you tweak little things here and there, if you just keep tweaking even for a week, you can pretty much get there. So it's important to get through that stage when nothing really comes together and you feel the project will only end in a disaster.
YS: What were some of the myths which were broken during your journey?
Anna: I use to think that to really do something in life you have to be a professional. That you have to know everything about your field to create something good. And I learned that it's not really true. In my field, there are a lot of professional designers but the kind of work I do, not many do. I did not go to a design school but am a lawyer, yet I took this up because the main point of design is to communicate a message. As long as you communicate it well, it does not matter who you are.
And so I realized that the myth that you have to be professional to do something is just that, a myth.
YS: How did you meet your co-founder? What was so striking about them that you decided to work together?
Anna: I met my co-founder at a meet up. I had been actively looking for one for some time. What struck me about Vlad Shyshov (co-founder) was that he did not have a fear of losing anything in this partnership. This type of resolve is not that common, because most of us do have something to lose at least the job. It's really rare to find fearless people. I think to launch a startup you have to be fearless.
YS: You have interacted with many entrepreneurs? What were the top three stories which had the biggest impression on you?
Anna: There is a startup called Vibease in Singapore whose founder is Dema Tio. He is a shy and very humble man, who looks every bit an engineer. He was building a vibrator that would help people enjoy sex long distance. When he told me about his product I was taken aback not because he was making this product but because I could not imagine him of all people to be building this. Later, I arranged for his startup to pitch to investors at the demo show Life 3.0 that I organize. It was hilarious to see how the investors were even afraid to touch the product. But he has come a long way and has raised money on the IndieGoGo campaign. He really made that product a lot more mainstream. So it's really cool to see people who are trying something completely unconventional.
Another big success is SkyCube. The founder of SkyCube is Tim DeBenedictis. When he came to meet me he brought along a cube, which is actually a satellite (a 10 inch by 10 inch box) that anyone can launch or co-launch into space. A year-and-a-half after our meeting, that box is actually sitting in the Earth's orbit. And it happens to be the first satellite which has not been launched by any government. We talk about ‘launching’ startups but Tim literally launched his earlier this year.
The third entrepreneur who made his mark is Mark Zuckerberg. When I met him in 2010 I was really impressed with how focused he is. What we read about him in the news is all drama. It is fake. In real life, the man is pure focus. He lives in the future and when you talk to him you start seeing the future through him. He is a time machine.
YS: What are the three most important lessons from your journey at Funders and Founders?
Anna: First, it doesn't matter what you have done, it only matters what you are doing next. That applies both to failures and successes. Founders who succeed don't have much time to celebrate, they need to keep building. Founders who fail don't have time to whine, because what matters is your next startup.
Second, if you failed no one really cares and no one really remembers your failure for long. If it was a huge epic fail, you probably will be remembered but so much so that you will be somewhat famous, and that also helps raise money. There is a saying that success has many fathers and failure is an orphan.
Third, it is better to do something and then regret rather than regret not doing it all. If you pass an opportunity to take action, it's gone. There may be a next one, but this one is gone. It's always better to start than to not start.