Interview with Junu Yang and Lawrence Wang, Co-Founders of PicTag

Junu Yang and Lawrence Wang are the co-founder of PicTag, a mobile social game where players take photos, tag them according to a simple word game logic, and earn points for their creativity.  The company is currently looking for users, feedback, collaborators, investors.  Junu and Lawrence will both be presenting PicTag on April 29th at the NY Tech Mixer Meetup’s Demos & Drinks event.

Tell me how it all started, where did your vision/inspiration come from?

Junu: So for my graduate thesis (circa 2006), I worked on a project that explored some ideas on how people can stay connected to play with each other rather than strictly for communication. I worked on a very crude prototype then playing various turn-based word games via SMS with a group of classmates. About a year or two later, I initially set out to create an SMS game platform. And then…the iPhone happened. After working with a developer here and a business partner there, I met Lawrence through an a website called CollabFinder. It was totally unexpected and awesome.

Why does the world need your product?  Why now?

Junu: Mobile is booming. It’s still yet to peak. I’m really inspired by people like Kevin Slavin and the founders of Foursquare (Dennis Crowley). They’re doing amazing stuff with turning the world around us into an augmented reality game. The mobile phone is the best gateway into this world where everyday mundane life is transformed into a world full of fun challenges and rewards.

Lawrence: This is our contribution to exploring the question, “What changes and what becomes possible when everyone carries around a GPS-enabled computer with camera?” PicTag is hopefully just the beginning of a series of experiments.

What were you doing before?

Junu: Working as a furniture/product designer, graphic designer, interaction designer, flash designer…

What keeps you motivated?

Junu: Money. Inspiring people. Designing for people.

Lawrence: Thinking about the possibilities. (What demotivates me? Thinking about the implementation effort.)

What keeps you up at night?

Junu: Alcohol.

Lawrence: Sometimes I’ll start having ideas about work right after I go to bed, and I’ll have to get back up and write them down. It’s strange how it only happens after I go to bed. I guess that’s when I start relaxing and all the undigested stuff in my mind starts flying around and making sparks.

What would you consider to be a successful result for your company?

Junu: If we get a loyal following of users who enjoy our product and have lots of fun and creative experiences with it.

Lawrence: And build a base (money, ideas) for further experiments.

What has been the most challenging aspect about building your startup so far?

Junu: Keeping the momentum going while being busy with other work.

What has been the most rewarding?

Junu: Collaborating effectively and seeing ideas come to life.

And lastly, what are your drinks of choice?

Junu: Gin at the moment. Specifically Hendricks.

Lawrence: Gin and tonic, snakebite (Guinness & hard cider), Irish coffee.