In this Q&A, we get to know Jake Park (29), Founder & CEO of Between, a beautiful messaging and photo sharing app for couples. Learn more about Jake’s approach to fundraising, Seoul startups, and more below.
Location : Seoul, Korea
Investors: $4 million raised with SoftBank, Ventures Korea, Japan’s Global Brain Corporation & 500 Startups.
What is your definition of a successful entrepreneur?
One who solves a problem by creating meaningful social impact.
How do you approach fundraising?
Before we launched Between, we failed two products in the span of a year. During that process, we were able to build relationships with our investors. They saw us at our best and our worst, how we built our team and product, how we failed, and how we learned from our failures. So we knew each other before we first fundraised with Softbank Ventures Korea for our third product, Between. Once we started, the process was fast and smooth because they already understood what we were going to do and how we were going to solve the problem.
I really believe keeping in touch with investors even at non-fundraising stages is very important. Entrepreneurs should be clear and persistent in their visions. Transparency is the best way to gain trust from investors, and trust can make or break a deal.
Do you have a mission and/or mantra?
Our company vision is to “provide emotional communication services to enrich real, offline based relationships.” This vision is the most important mission that we strive to achieve.
Who do you look up to/admire in your field?
Jaewoong Lee, founder of Daum Communications (2nd biggest portal in Korea, merged with Kakao in 2014). He is a valuable mentor for us. He helped us find the right way to go and the right mindset to have as co-founders when we were suffering through our two failures.
Can you recommend one or more entrepreneurs in your region who are doing great work?
Heeun Park, ex-CEO of IUM. She was a co-founder and ex-CEO of IUM, an online dating service in Korea. There was no dating service in Korea before IUM; IUM built the online dating industry. After she left the company, she became an investor in Altos Ventures. She has been continually supporting the Korean startup ecosystem as an entrepreneur and investor.
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?
Before launching Between, we failed two different products. We had focused on the tablet PC market in Korea, but the tablet PC market did not grow as fast as we expected. We pivoted our vision to the smartphone market, and reset our company vision. We learned the hard way that the key for startups is creating a product which the market needs–products that the market and the people want, not a product we want to create.
What challenges do you have to deal with, and how do you overcome these challenges?
Our biggest challenge is to grow faster. We have been growing well so far, but I think this year would be the year that can decide the future of our company. To grow faster, we should move more aggressively in the global market. We are trying to hire talented people who understand local markets (especially in SEA) because we saw many cases in which talented people added great value.
What drove you to build this company in the first place?
My dream was and still is to “build IT services or products for the society to enhance people’s lives.” I thought the only direct way I could achieve this dream is to found a company, since it would be difficult to do so directly if I chose to join traditional conglomerate companies or professional firms like consulting or banking. Founding a company was not a difficult decision for me.
What is your long term dream/vision for the company?
“Provide emotional communication services to enrich real, offline based relationships.” We will continue focusing on this vision to help people get closer in the offline world.
What’s the greatest memory of building you company” and “what was the hardest day and why”?
The greatest memories are when I found great people and they decided to come on board. I never compromise when I hire people. I think that’s the reason I have the opportunity to work with great team members.
The hardest day was right before launching Between. We only had a 6-month runway after failing two different products, which meant Between could be our last chance. We were really desperate, and our desperation drove us to build a great product.
Wanna learn more about our founders in Korea? Check out our interview with Seoul-based founder David Lee, at Shakr: #500Kimchi