Spotlight on Refni

Written by Chanie Hyde on the 3rd of August, 2017

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Refni aims to allow individuals to explore the world through the lens of another person, breaking free of the ‘filter bubble’ that is created through online services.

We’ve touched on the difficulties of creating such a forward thinking mission in Episode 8 Ahead of Their Time, but this week we catch up with Xiao Han on how she came up with her idea and what she’s learned through her time in the SheStarts program.


“I began to wonder about what in society shapes people’s opinions and perspectives”

I moved to Australia when I was young and grew up in a household composed of people with varying cultural backgrounds. It was during these years that I began to wonder about what in society shapes people’s opinions and perspectives. Through this exploration, I realised the importance of news and information in shaping how we think and perceive the world and ultimately how we define ourselves and those around us.

This innate curiosity about identity combined with my interest in using technology to expand human knowledge, lead to the creation of Refni.


Prior to the SheStarts program, a colleague of mine, Abi, saw a talk I gave about Refni. A couple months later she discovered the SheStarts program on LinkedIn and prompted me to apply. I gave it a go.

What has ultimately drawn me into the program and continues to inspire me is the scale of change and impact other founders in the program are working towards. It’s been an incredible opportunity to get to know them and to learn from them through the program.


“The hardest challenge is distilling (often contrary!) feedback”

The hardest challenge is distilling (often contrary!) feedback, to make decisions that make sense for my startup. It’s especially easy to stray off course when is feedback coming from extremely experienced mentors and advisors.

However, I have learned that in the end no one’s knows my startup or vision more than me. Therefore, I need to put trust in my own decisions – be open to feedback but identify and apply insights that make most sense for my mission.  

Xiao Han at SheStarts Demo Day

Xiao Han at SheStarts Demo Day


“The biggest challenge and risk is not staying ahead of your customers”

One of the highlights for me over the last few months is stepping into and speaking with amazing minds at companies such as Google, LinkedIn and Facebook in Silicon Valley. I learned that regardless of the size of companies, we all go through similar challenges when it comes to building products that resonates with end users. A lot of testing and learning involved.

What resonated with me the most from the trip is the importance of remaining in touch with your users. In business, we talk and focus a lot on competition but really, the biggest challenge and risk is not staying ahead of your customers. You want to avoid the situation where one day you realise their wants and needs have shifted, leaving you far behind.


Looking back there is one thing I would change – get something out there ASAP! Let the world show you how they want to use your product and then adjust and improve from there.

Your own assumptions about who your customers are and why they are interested in your product will almost always be wrong. There are certain things that will be unique for each of them, but after speaking to a dozen customers, a trend should emerge. These pain points and experiences are surprisingly almost always not like what you’ve imagined. Therefore it is critical for founders to get out there and speak to as many people as they can.


“Remember why you are building your startup”

For founders starting out or moving through an accelerator one piece of advice I would give would be to be clear on your own principles and remember why you are building your startup. Throughout your journey, you are going to receive a lot of advice and feedback as well as being confronted by ongoing difficult decisions and situations. You need to know yourself to ground your decisions, and to lift yourself back up when things get tough.

With Xiao Han’s vision and Refni’s empowering company mission, we’re excited to see how far she can take her company!

To catch up on all the episodes and watch next week, stay tuned here!

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