David Lee (@davidyhlee) is the founder and CEO of Shakr, a service that allows small businesses and individuals to create professional-quality videos using photos and video clips. Lee is based in Seoul and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
What drove you to build this company in the first place?
The inherent unfairness of the most effective and powerful storytelling medium being monopolized by people and entities that have no other qualification than deep pockets. It’s despicable to allow such power to be so dramatically financially inaccessible. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m bombarded with video produced only by the wealthy. I want to make sure we turn video into a communication medium that can also be used by the little guy that has deep love and respect for his craft, just as effectively (but maybe not at the same degree of reach) as Big Business.
What is your definition of a successful entrepreneur?
Success as an entrepreneur to me is doing something awesome for lots of people. Touching the lives of many, creating massive value at scale, that’s what I’m reaching for. If I do that well, I’ll reap both intrinsic and material rewards.
How do you approach fundraising?
We focused exclusively on angel investors who have achieved success as entrepreneurs in their lives. Having great angels on board comes with a slew of benefits. We’re also happy to have institutional investors like 500 Startups, NHN Investment, Posco Capital and Strong Ventures on board.
Do you have a mission and/or mantra?
We started Shakr with the idea that we would “Reimagine everything.” Eventually, that evolved to “Great Video for Everyone.” The idea is that video is the most effective and powerful storytelling medium, however the high upfront cost of traditional video creation made it accessible to the wealthy. Shakr is leveling the playing field, and giving the little guy access to producing high production value video.
Can you tell me about an experience where, at the time, it felt like a failure but looking back on it you can see how it was a positive learning experience or led you to success?
Nope. Can’t keep me down. Never could. Really, I can’t reframe any of my experiences in a way that didn’t lead to a positive learning experience. It comes down to this: If you’re not winning, you’ve already lost. So every loss is just a step towards winning – so those losses are not even losses to begin with.
Do you have a mentor yourself? If so, how did you find them and get them to help? How has working with a mentor affected you and your work?
My co-founders DJ, Minku, Simon. They all found me – while working together, they just naturally grew into incredibly important advisors to me. I learn from them every single day. They have helped me think bigger, think fairer, and think through the challenges we run into every day.
Can you talk a bit about what your relationship is like with the tech industry?
I try not to get involved. I don’t even think there is a “tech industry.” I’m in the business of enabling video professionals to enable normal folk to make lots of great video. Technology is just what we use to make that possible.
Can you recommend one or more entrepreneurs in your region who are doing great work?
What challenges do you have to deal with, and how do you overcome these challenges?
I think entrepreneurs all have a view in their minds, in their souls, of a world that’s at least a little bit better. Most of them run out of steam, run out of money, run out of air to breath before they can persuade others to help them make that better world a reality. Like all entrepreneurs, I’m frightfully overmatched by the inertia of the world. My challenge is to express the right words, the right intentions, all at the right times and to the right people, and if not the right words, times and people, something close enough to right. If I’m doing that at least well enough, but ideally far better than well enough, I’ll have great people around me to help drive us to and beyond where we’re going.
What’s the greatest memory of building you company? What was the hardest day and why?
The greatest memory was about two months ago, when one of my co-founders led our first town hall meeting. We originally had weekly all-hands meetings but they lost meaning. My co-founder Minku led the reimagination of what our company meetings should be, and I was incredibly proud to see everyone come together under his leadership. Since then, we’ve had engaging town hall meetings where progress is shared, paths are clarified, obstacles are overcome.
The hardest day was when I turned down a hundred thousand dollar check when we were days away from pay day, with close to zero dollars in the bank. (Every one still got paid on time.) I’ll leave the why to another day, off the record. 🙂
What is your long term vision for the company?
We’re in this to make great video creation accessible to everyone. The current situation only makes sense to big companies, who were the only ones that could afford to produce high production value video before Shakr. That ends now.
– FIN –