Albert Dong

Albert Dong Freelance Founders

Albert Dong is the Founder & Chief Creative Director of Godling. Since 2020, Godling has helped companies raise over $1B+ in financing and served as the external design team to over a dozen companies. They've worked with high-growth startups, top-decile venture funds, and the world's largest private foundations on a variety of their brand & storytelling needs.

Before Godling, Albert started his career in the early-stage venture ecosystem, including stints as Creative-Director-In-Residence at Wavemaker Partners, Lead Designer at TTYL, and Head of Design at First Round Capital's Dorm Room Fund. Albert is an active angel investor and spends his spare time on the tennis courts rediscovering the topspin he's lost since college. Originally from East Windsor, NJ, Albert now live in sunny LA.

First question: Do you consider yourself a freelancer or a founder?

I would say I'm a Founder - most of my time now is spent trying to help others to do their best work versus doing the work myself. Most of the design work I do nowadays is for the craft and not the client.

What made you decide to start your own company?

Before Godling, I was working with a few venture funds as an advisor to their portfolio companies on all matters brand & design. It was a blast but I felt restricted by the companies I was working with and the problems they were tackling. There's something to be said about the responsibility that comes from being able support the growth of a company. By virtue of their existence, companies represent a change in the world and by being an enabler of companies, I felt responsible to be working for companies that I'm aligned with and people that I cared about. Ultimately, I wanted more agency over who and what I spent my time on.

Can you share how you got into branding and storytelling?

So in college, I was adamant on going into wealth management, high finance, all that jazz. I was an East Coast kid growing up and coupled with being the son of immigrant parents, the only careers I could hypothesize for myself were the classic type A career trackers - banker, doctor, lawyer, etc. The first time I visited LA, the very first morning, and this is going to sound super corny, I had an epiphany as I was watching the sunrise and decided, that day, to leave my aspirations of being a high-flying finance bro behind me. I reneged on the internship offer and booked a one-way ticket to Kuala Lumpur to spend some time alone studying design.

What do you feel is the hardest challenge for brand when they are trying to develop their story?

Authenticity. Every founding story has their own set of truths to them and their own reasons for being engaging. Unfortunately, most founders, whether it's a function of them lacking storytelling experience or struggling with insecurities, defer to classic, overplayed tropes when constructing their company story. People are really good at sniffing out BS and when there is a fundamental misalignment between how one talks about their business and the actions that a business takes, the brand doesn't resonate. It's up to us to serve as brand strategists and founder therapists in order to reconcile that incongruency.

How do you go about finding new clients?

It's a bit embarrassing but I actually don't have a set method! I've been fortunate, as a function of my past experiences in venture and startups, to have started with a healthy roster of clientele that's been ever-expanding. If there's one thing that has enabled the growth beyond the original network, it would be: continuously doing good work and never settling for less.

What is your process when working with new brands and developing their branding?

It always starts with the download. Before talking tactical about design, we always spend a few hours really understanding the details of the business: the history, the business model, the competitors, the future vision, etc. Sometimes, this download phase takes longer than the design phase itself! I believe that only when you truly understand a business, can you accurately and effectively brand it.

You are also an investor, can you share a little more on how you became involved in this?

I actually started my career at the intersection of brand & investing. Many of my early jobs were to help the portfolio companies of venture funds think through and execute upon their various brand & design needs. As time went on, the conversation shifted from tactical (manifesting looks and feels) over to strategy (outlining the positioning, brand as a moat, etc). For the funds themselves, I would be supporting the investment team through evaluating potential investments based on their brand strategy.

What keeps you motivated and inspired?

I used to love the design work itself, and I still do, but now I find that I feel my best when I'm helping other designers grow and develop their own unique skillsets. Much of what I'm doing at Godling now is around education, ways that we can empower both our full-time and freelance team to be the best possible designers they can be.

What advice do you have for creative people who want to pursue their passion as a career?

Don't compromise on your creative values. I've seen many friends chase the money and optimize against their creative energy as a result. If you don't love the work that you do, both the quality of your work and the heights you can grow as a designer will be limited. Exponential growth comes from the alignment of what excites you and how you're spending your time.

What's next for you?

For the next 6-12 months, my core focus is building up Godling and stabilizing it further. We're fortunate to have significantly more deal-flow than we're able to take on right now so spending a lot of time hiring new designers and finding vetted agency partners to pass along work to. I'm very picky with those I work with so looking for people that are not only future-chasing designers, but also those that can think strategically about the business and how design can really drive growth. If that sounds like you, drop me a line ;)

“Don't compromise on your creative values. I've seen many friends chase the money and optimize against their creative energy as a result. ”