Kakao Talk founder gives start-up advice

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Kakao Talk founder gives start-up advice


Kim Bum-soo, co-founder and chairman of Daum Kakao, gives advice to start-up entrepreneurs during the Startup Nations Summit at the Sheraton Walkerhill Hotel on Monday. [NEWSIS]

The key to a start-up’s success is to take a path that differentiates itself from other companies, Kim Bum-soo, co-founder and chairman of Daum Kakao, told 46 start-ups from 45 countries at the annual Startup Nations Summit 2014 on Monday.

Kim is a key figure in the Korean start-up industry. Like many others, he started his career as a regular employee at Samsung SDS but began his own company, Hangame, which later became part of Korea’s largest Internet portal operator NHN.

Although he went on to become a joint representative of NHN, he left the company and again started his own business, KakaoTalk, which is now the nation’s largest mobile messenger company.

Kim rarely makes public appearances, but on Monday at the Sheraton Walkerhill Hotel in Gwangjin District, southeastern Seoul, he offered his advice as the summit’s keynote speaker.

The event, which is scheduled to run Monday and Tuesday, is the world’s largest celebration of entrepreneurs and start-ups. It is co-hosted by Startup Korea and the Banks Foundation for Young Entrepreneurs.

“Start-ups are those that choose the paths that no one has taken before,” said Kim. “In order to take the right action at the right time, it is necessary that start-ups find solutions from a different angle from others.”

Kim brought up the dilemma he faced when he founded the online game portal Hangame as an example.

When Kim started the company, he had to decide whether he would introduce paid content that could raise a profit or provide free games that could secure more users.

“On my way to and back from Japan to export Hangame, I took my first business class flight. Then, I thought of applying the subtle differences between economy seats and business class seats to game content,” said Kim.

“As a result, Hangame introduced the paid game models in the market for the first time and had a big success.”

The chairman also shared his experience creating the nation’s largest mobile messenger. He said he approaches the mobile messenger as a platform, not a service.

“When we perceive it as a service, we only throw questions like what kind of services we are going to make and how we are going to sell them,” said Kim.

“On the other hand, if we think of it as a platform, we approach it with consciousness of who will be participating in the platform and how we are going to connect them.”

Kim’s critical thinking led to KakaoGame being built as a game platform within the messenger app. His effort to cultivate this platform also resulted in merging with the nation’s leading portal, Daum. The chairman also shared his belief that start-ups can bring about positive change in society.

“I believe that companies can sustainably change society, and in order to achieve that, there should be an environment where companies with social impact can grow,” said Kim during his speech.

Such companies are those that pursue systematic change in society and resolve social issues through innovative ideas while at the same time achieving sound financial performances and standing on their own feet.

Kim said he is planning to continue investing in these types of start-ups.

“I established the venture capital organization K-CUBE Ventures in 2012 and started the Incubating 100 CEOs Project,” Kim explained. “So far, I am supporting 36 CEOs and the efforts will be continued.”

Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan also attended the global entrepreneurship summit and said in his welcoming address that he is trying to inject capital and high-quality manpower into adventurous companies.

“The Korean government is promoting a dynamic innovation economy, which is one of the three large strategies of the three-year economic innovation plan,” said Choi. “At the heart of it are start-ups and entrepreneurship”

“In order for large corporations and start-ups to build an innovative ecosystem tailored to local industries through partnerships, the government is establishing creative economy innovation centers in 17 provinces and cities across the nation.”

BY KIM JUNG-YOON [kjy@joongang.co.kr]
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