This is part two of this story. Part 1 here
In 2010 when Bong-jin Kim left' Naver' (Korea’s primary online search portal), he had no idea about Venture Capital or ‘Exit’. Additionally, he had no interest in global expansion. He built his startup to focus on solving ‘small issues that Koreans face in their daily lives’.
Yesturday we discussed how he raised his first three rounds of funding. Today we look at how he raised $36 million USD from Goldman Sachs, his strategy for future growth, and his management philosophy.
And Series D: Goldman Sachs - $36 Million USD
Kim explained that the initial reason to meet Goldman Sachs wasn't about investment. Han Kim of Altos Ventures recommended discussing with the US-based finance giant to discuss their ides about an Intial Public Offering (IPO). When Goldman looked into Baedal Minjeok’s data, they suggested a discussion with the 'GS team.' Kim initially thought that GS was a third party organization, but of course it was the internal venture investment arm of Goldman Sachs.
Because Goldman Sachs had previously funded GrubHub in New York, they had a keen interest in the food delivery market, that Baedal Minjeok was now leading in Korea. On account of Woowa Bros's positive growth and Goldman Sachs' bold investment strategy, the unexpected $36 million USD investment happened.
Investors and Founders are both people after all
"It all boils down to conversations between people,” Kim explained.
Most founders see investors purely as financiers, who are only worried about how they will make a return on their money. But Kim took a different view. He believes that it is important to be honest, person to person.
This is Kim's key to how to open new opportunities, that you may not even be looking for. Essentially, to keep an open mind and to look at your personal and business networks as an open opportunity for growth. Merely meeting VCs to raise money is dangerous, because money can often confuse a company’s valuations and thwart a more sustainable course of events.
Knowing who to raise from, and how much, is important because it becomes an important reference and during your next investment cycle.
Founders must be more concerned with what investors can offer, beyond the money. Kim researches investors' previous investments and investment strategies, and asks their portfolio companies about the other support they received.
"A Lion king cannot be a rabbit king"
After their series D investment and current expansion to Japan in partnership with 'Line,' Woowa Bros. value is likely to increase exponentially. Japan has similar market characteristics to Korea, but is a much bigger opportunity. Without Kim’s strong connections to the market, through Cyber Agent, realizing this opportunity would be tough.
As our meeting with Kim drew to an end, we asked about his leadership philosophy. To explain this, Kim told us a story.
"I recently read a story about a rabbit king. Even though he as a king among the rabbits, he envied the lion king's charisma. The rabbit king tried to roar like him but was only mocked. So the rabbit asked the lion king about how to be like him. The lion king responded 'I am only the king of lions not the whole animal kingdom. I can't be a rabbit king like you."
The lesson here is about 'how to be yourself.' Kim was more of a rabbit king. His quick witted design and services were the corner stone to Woowa Bros. success. Members of his engineering team may argue about why Kim, whose background is in design, prefers the design team over them, but he responds: "did you apply to Baedal Minjeok because I am a designer?" In the same way that every person is different, it is hard to judge good leadership. Kim explained that he learned that being himself is the best strategy.
While other delivery apps were zig-zagging in the market, Woowa Bros. was able to slowly and strategically determine their own path. Over time they proved to be the market leader and are on course for even greater success overseas. Kim believes that his consistency and perseverance are also to his chance to secure so much investment from Goldman Sachs.
By end of this year, Baedal Minjok plans to hold the '2014 Korean Delivery Award.' It may sound corny but it is still their style. And that is how they are now on a prime-time public TV show.
Perhaps Kim is a rabbit king, that a lion king is now trying to emulate.
This is part two of this story. Part 1 here