Changseong Ho (L) and Jiwon Moon (R)
Drawing upon past entrepreneurial experiences, failed or successful, and applying them into new startups is probably one of the key reasons for why serial entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed than first-time entrepreneurs.
This idea has been proved by the experiences of Changseong Ho, co-founder of crowdsouced subtitling platform Viki, because both of the two pillar concepts of his current endeavor Vingle, global vision and interest-based groups, are derived from his previous entrepreneurial efforts. Ho shared with TechNode this week his entrepreneurial experiences, future visions for Vingle, an interest-oriented service, as well as micro-VC TheVentures.
In 2000, Ho and his wife Jiwon Moon founded their first startup Web-C Intermedia, a fashion simulator, but the company ended total failure in Korean market, mainly due to bad market timing and small market size, said Ho as he reflected on the memory. To their utmost surprise when studying in the U.S., several U.S. companies which are doing exactly the same thing as Web-C Intermedia are very successful there. The failure of his first startup drove Ho to adopt a global vision and expand focus beyond Korean market.
With previous lessons in mind, Ho and Jiwon started crowdsourced subtitling platform Viki in 2007 with an international team. As a volunteer-powered community, Viki offers real-time subtitling of global TV shows, movies and other premium contents. The site now claimed 22 million users, translating contents into more than 160 languages. Viki has been acquired by Japanese e-commerce giant Rukuten with reportedly US$200 million last year.
Motivated by the devotion and passions of avid fans, Ho launched his third startup Vingle in 2011, aiming to expand the passionate community power to all kinds of interests across fashion, entertainment, art, pop culture, etc. Moreover, it is not limited only to video this time, said Ho. “Vingle has text, picture and video-oriented contents. But content type doesn’t matter. We provide a space and community where people with similar interests can share and interact. That’s the point.”
Like Viki, Vingle is co-founded by Jiwon and Ho with an international team. Currently, the site has 2.8 million monthly active users mainly come from Korea, the U.S. and some other English-speaking countries. In June, it saw 100 million page views. Among the page views and users, the portion of mobile is keep increasing with 1.4 million app downloads, Ho added.
Founded in 2011, Ho believed Vingle has passed the threshold of amassing its initial user community and the business is starting to take off after reaching a critical mass in Korea. More and more popular bloggers and content contributors use Vingle as their blogging platform or tools to promote their blogs, according to Ho. The company is now building Japanese and Chinese teams, trying to explore cross-border opportunities.
“Most social networking services connects people to people, therefore, the social graph is formed around regional, social, school networks. But Vingle connects like-minded people through interests.”
In addition to some seed funding from Viki, Vingle has received Series A from Korean venture capital K Cube Ventures and planning to raise Series B next year.
Though Vingle has tried some e-commerce related business models, the company’s revenue will eventually based on advertisements by connecting people to the sellers, since they are not going to handle the inventories directly, said Ho.
With the goal of sharing experiences on building an international team and operation, Ho also set up a micro-VC TheVentures to help entrepreneurs who are looking for cross-border opportunities. There are no regional or industry sector restrictions for portfolio companies.
TheVentures has invested in 10 companies since its establishment six months ago. The investment amounts range between US$100k to US$150.
Adopting an aggressive investment strategy, Ho tends get involved in the development of startups that share the same visions with his team and helps these projects to grow by adding new values. As an entrepreneur himself, Ho believed his team has better execution powers. The young venture capital company also hires specialists in technology, marketing, to fill the gaps in case there are some components missing in their portfolio companies.
image credit: Vingle