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Tong Jiao of PENCIL ONE Tells Us About the Product Imagery Service and How the Startup is Creating Entry Barriers

kokou adzo




First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Tong Jiao: Luckily, we are doing well so far. Nobody is infected with COVID-19 so far. We have been wearing masks since it was reported. 

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded PENCIL ONE 

Tong Jiao: After I rebuilt the photo department in Safavieh, I realized my workflow can be scaled up and can benefit many eCommerce sellers. However, I realized the inherent weakness of the in-house team. For instance, they are forgotten by the administration team, and there are limited promotion opportunities. Thus, it’s difficult to pump up the in-house team’s work passions. As a result, there are many customers using PENCIL ONE to replace their in-house teams. 

How does PENCIL ONE innovate? 

Tong Jiao: We are a disruptor of the traditional industry- product imagery. We build a standard product imagery process SOP to give up the relying photographer’s experience and skillset. Everyone can take professional images under our process. Such as everyone can make a burger in McDonalds’, even if you never had a burger.  

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Tong Jiao: Because a lot of people shop online during the COVID-19, our business is  growing during the crisis. We closed from March-May as the government requested but the founding team decided to use the company as the quarantine area and continue providing our customers services. 

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Tong Jiao:  There are many difficult choices to make, and I’ve learned different lessons from them. I like to read entrepreneur biographies. They help me to realise that many entrepreneurs had similar problems before. 

How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and PENCIL ONE in the future?

Tong Jiao: My previous experience has taught me to slow down and many times the stress disappears by itself without any damages. I enjoy what I am doing, and have strong confidence in what I do. I believe we can make the eCommerce market better than before since customers needs to see photos before purchasing. Thus, taking photos is naturally fun. 

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Tong Jiao: There is no big player in this field yet. Our main competition is the in-house team. However, the sector is giving the right job to the right person. No matter the cost or speed, our process are at least 3 times or more than the in-house. Agency and freelancers are taking product images, but our efficiency or reliability provides us with a huge competitive advantage. Our product model naturally collects and generates data which helps us create a strong entry barrier. 

Your final thoughts

Tong Jiao: eCommerce imagery sector is huge, and undeveloped. Every product needs at least 1 photo to allow it to launch online. The traditional image processing is in the Stone Age era and there are no standard process, data; everything is based on the profession’s experience. PENCIL ONE’s model will reformat this industry and lead the edge. 

Your website?

Kokou Adzo is the editor and author of He is passionate about business and tech, and brings you the latest Startup news and information. He graduated from university of Siena (Italy) and Rennes (France) in Communications and Political Science with a Master's Degree. He manages the editorial operations at

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