Oct 15

Crowdfunding in Korea

CrowdFundingA few months ago, South Korea passed a law that made it legal to operate crowdfunding platforms. I’ve always been interested in crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo so I did some digging and started researching some of these sites.

kseedThe problem I see is that South Korea’s market size is too small. This is an issue with Korean’s startup ecosystem. We only have about 50 million people here. I don’t see this space being sustainable for more than 1 player. And even if we get one dominate platform…wouldn’t it be better to post a project to either kickstarter or indiegogo? The problem is language and I’ve been seeing agencies offering this specific type of service. Companies like KSeed help Korean startups prepare crowdfunding campaigns for Global platforms.

Here is a list of crowdfunding sites in Korea.

tumblbugTumblbug. Probably the most famous crowdfunding platforms in Korea. Just received around $1.6 million.

Fundu. One of the first sites in this space. Deals mostly with books and comics etc…


Terafunding. Real estate crowd funding hence the tera? But shouldn’t it be terra as in terra firma?

Kickki. Very little activity.

OpenTrade. Also one of the main competitors in Korea.

Ohmycompany. Has a large user base.

Wadiz. Not much going on here.

FundingTree. Like a micro loan website?


Villy. Means “borrow” in Korean.

Funding club.





And also found some Korean government run organizations/associations.

Korea Crowd Funding Association.

Korea Crowdfunding Platforms.

This is a side note, but I want to be less lazy with this blog. Just in life general. Less lazy. I love blogging and everything. And I’ve been a blogger since like 2007, but it’s so time consuming. I wanted to write up a quick list of crowdfunding sites in Korea, and I ended up burning like an hour and a half. Can someone solve this problem? Build a platform that people can easily update that people can own.

Sean Lee out.

Sep 15

Relaunching Seoulspace and Startuptree

Seoul-SpaceKorea still has a lot of changing to do until it can be recognized as a major tech hub. Starting to read some news on Korean unicorns and etc…but i’m still not seeing an environment where new startups can grow. I wanna change it somehow. Sounds crazy but yeah…why not me? I’ll do it.

A few years ago, I came across Seoulspace. It seemed exciting at the time to read about a startup accelerator here in Seoul. I think in the last year or two, a whole bunch of startup accelerators are popping up. I made my rounds when I first launched Mashups. It was terrible. It was for students. And they were only looking for companies that fast followed. Companies that copied an existing app. Anyway, I have the opportunity to relaunch Seoulspace and Startuptree.

I’m working with devs and my designer to create a unique and honest community for startups here in Seoul, South Korea.

To be continued…

May 15

Startups in Seoul

startups-seoul-south-koreaI’ve been doing the startup thing for about a year now. 365 days. Seems not too long. But I have to say that i experienced so much. Looking back, I feel stupid for thinking that I could do this. But i’m a year wiser and I understand the flow of the startup scene here in Seoul, Korea.

It’s pretty safe to say that most cities have their own take on what the startup scene should look like. Seoul is different from the states. Seoul is small. But it’s super dense. So most people pretty much know each other. And the startup culture in Seoul isn’t as developed. So a lot of the venture capitalists/angel investors can take advantage of startup founders.

If I had to clone myself and send my clone back in time, this would be my advice.

1. Don’t quit your job till you and your co-founders have a product. It doesn’t even have to be a beta version. But have to have something to show. Can’t just shop around a deck and expect people to give you money.

2. Test your work environment and team chemistry with your co founders. I started Mashups with two other co founders. Unfortunately, I had to kick one of my co founders out a few months ago. I’m a big believer in the “team is better than product” saying.

3. Eat ramen and don’t buy anything. Don’t buy equipment, computers, furniture. Just bring stuff from home. Money burns fast as a startup and you need to make each Dollar or Won count.

4. Get an office. I know i said that money burns fast, but the work space is essential. Hard to focus at a coffeeshop. And when you pay rent, the whole team’s mentality gets serious. Everyone has to give 110%. Everyone on the team has to go all in. And paying rent give you a great work space for the team, and gets everyone to go all in.

5. Sell your family. You have to get your family to really believe in your startup. This is really important. There were times when i cried by myself. I was so stressed and scared. If My wife and my family didn’t support my crazy ass decision, I think i would have quit. And that’s the key to increase your odds. Survival. Just survival for that next pitch. Survive for the next meeting, lead, etc…

Mar 15

Alliance Business Model

voltron-allianceFor the last few weeks, I’ve been busy drafting a new plan for my company at Mashups. Startup life has its ups and downs, but I don’t regret a moment of it. I’ve learned so much in the past year and I feel confident that the direction I’m heading now is the right one. Even if it doesn’t turn out like I planned, I know that I will learn and grow. And honest, it’s all about the journey anyway.

“Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don’t want to run out of gas on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas stations.” Tim O’Reilly

I’m pleased to announce that Mashups has been acquired by 500v. 500v is a Korean portfolio company specializing in the new online to offline market. 500v developed a new and improved Alliance Business Model. I feel that Mashups can help 500v achieve many of the goals it set out to achieve.

Sean Lee out.

Mar 15

O2O online to offline

I’m not sure if O2O is a thing in the global startup landscape, but in South Korea, it’s one of the hot keywords. O2O means online to offline. This idea started with the start of social commerce like Groupon. But it’s being applied to just general ecommerce sites. “I purchase something online and I pick it up at the store.” Sounds pretty lame right. Very 1999. I think best buy let you do this 2 decades ago.

For me this idea of Online to Offline seems silly. Even without a term for it, we naturally interact with things online and offline. This has been happening way before the iPhone or social media. Of course the things we consume online effects our offline habits.

I’m big on data. So what I’m interested in is figuring out a way to create a platform with all of this new big data stuff.

I’ve been working with big data and beacon technology. I’m a big believer in data. And I can see that it will change the way we do everything. In 5 to 10 years, everything will have a sensor. Our cups, our clothes, and all of these things will send data to the cloud.

My company is working on a new project. We are creating an advertising platform that bridges online to offline. It’s very exciting and I can’t wait to share more via my blog. Stayed tuned.

Feb 15

The thing about Burnout

BurnoutThe thing about burnout is that it doesn’t happen when your stress level is at its peak. Burnout doesn’t happen when you’re swiping your credit cards for cash advances to pay rent and pay your employees. It doesn’t happen when you’re calling out to Jesus to come down from heaven and rescue you from startup hell.


It happens after you get some money. It happens after a great pitch. It happens when you have to something to lose. And you have to do boring stuff…like work. It happens when you have time. Time to think about what a bad idea starting your startup was. I mean really!?!? What what you thinking? Now what?

Burnout comes when you have time to think about last month. Thinking bout how God awful that experience was. How you never ever want to go thru that again.

And Burnout happens often. You look at your cofounders and have the same conversation. Should we pivot? Should we do some agency work to make ends meet? Are we a good team? Do we really know how to do this?

Sean Out

Oct 14

No Benchmarking

I started my company because I wanted to do something new. It’s been 6 months since I left my Samsung job and started my startup Mashups. It’s been crazy. Days filled with excitement and new fresh ideas. And nights of pain, anxiety, and frustration. I understood that it was going to be hard. I knew it was going to be hell.

I get asked the case study and benchmarking questions a lot. How am I supposed to explain something that hasn’t been invested yet. Something that hasn’t been tested. There is no benchmark. No case study. No business template that we can copy. I wouldn’t have risked so much to setup a company to do something that others are already doing.

I can see 3-6 months into the future. It’s a beautiful place. A land of plentiful seed funding. An oasis of money greens and fancy blue drinks. A creative paradise filled with fun, excitement, and positive energy.

But, it’s possible to give it all up in the next few months because it’s so hard. The debt. The marital stress. Sleep deprivation. Loss off team members.

But, I say fuck it!
I go all the way!
I’m all in!

“You need a lot of passion for what you’re doing because its so hard. Without passion, any rational person would give up.
So if you’re not having fun doing it, if you don’t absolutely love it, you’re going to give up.
And that’s what happens to most people, actually.
If you look at the ones that ended up being successful in the eyes of society, often times its the ones who love what they do, so they could persevere when it got really tough.
And the ones that didn’t love it, quit. Because they’re sane, right?
Who would put up with this stuff if you don’t love it?
So its a lot of hard work and its a lot of worrying constantly.
If you don’t love it, you’re going to fail.” Steve Jobs

Sean Lee out.

Sep 14

Fragmentation of Information in Korean Startup Space

fragmentation-infoI moved out here to Seoul Korea 4 years ago. I had trouble early on because Korea isn’t really a foreigner friendly place. Out of Asia’s major cities, I’d rank Seoul be last on the list. I speak Korean, but it was still hard. A lot of factors for why this is, but I want to blame the Korean internet.

Seoul has the world’s fastest internet speeds. It has the largest mobile smart phone market penetration. Yet, the Korean web is filled with old tech such as ActiveX. Trying to buy something online is a huge pain in the ass. You have to enter in all of these security codes and have certain software installed etc…

Google isn’t a major search engine here. Everything is pretty much Naver. This poses a serious problem for English speakers. This day and age, we are all dependent on getting info from Google. If Google can’t find some relevant info, what are we to do?

I recently launched a new startup in Seoul. Trying to find info about the startup scene here is taxing. Naver sucks and if I want to use it, I have to have get a native speaker on my team to help me. If I use google, I don’t get much. Cause there aren’t that many English based content about Seoul’s startup scene.

So it all boils down to content. Information. Fragmentation of information in the Korean Startup scene is one of the issues that my Startup is trying to fix.

1. The info that is available isn’t organized. It’s hard to find. It takes too much time to sort out and digest.

2. There isn’t enough content available for Google to crawl and index.

Starting with these two points, my team and I are in the process of building a platform that addresses these problems. I feel a need for it personally. And if it can help other Startup founders…Great.

Sean Lee out!

Sep 14

Tech Founder Documentaries

twitter-evan-williams-biz-stone-jack-dorseySpent the last few nights watching some tech founder documentaries. I wanted to make a list here so I can look it up later. Hopefully you will also get inspired by these documentary films about famous Founder CEOs. Most are from the brilliant Bloomberg Game Changers series.

Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Jack Dorsey.

Steve Jobs.

Jeff Bezos.

Larry Ellison.

Elon Musk.

Bill Gates.

Mark Zuckerberg.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Mark Cuban.

Reid Hoffman.

Sean Lee out!

Sep 14

Start Your Company. Big Brands and Humble Beginnings

Apple_I_ComputerI recently launch a new tech startup called MashUps. It’s always been a dream of mine to create something that people can use. I look at how I am now. I like to create. For example, I’m not a big sports fan. When I say that, I’m talking about on the consumer level. I love basketball with a passion. And golf is love/hate, but I love it at times when my swing is fluid. But I stopped watching the NBA or college hoops years ago. And I never actually watched a golf on tv. Why? Because I’d rather be doing than watching. This is how I view my career. I don’t want to be on the sidelines. Or worse, I don’t want to be on the sofa with a beer in hand just watching other people play a game.

It’s safe to say that most people are consumers not creators. People like me are the outliers. We are the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels. Part of my drive is due to my extreme laziness. I don’t want to get up at 6am to go to an uninspired job. I don’t want to have small talk with people I’m not even remotely interested in. For me, that’s a horrible way to live. And I see more for myself and I’m greedy to provide more for my family. Not just money, I want freedom. Freedom to wake up at 11am. Or not wake up at all. Freedom to go to Paris on a whim with the family. Freedom to say no to projects that are boring. Life is short.

“It’s a simple investment. You only have to invest almost all of your money. On the upside, after a year you might earn 3 percent more. The downside? Any day you could lose it all, for reasons usually outside your control and that you will almost never see coming.
Would you make that investment? Of course not.
Yet millions of people do–every day they go to work for someone else.”
Excerpt from “The only way to get really really rich

Most startups face tremendous obstacles during the early stages. The founders have to be mentally strong to not give up on the business. We recently opened our Seoul office. It’s a big gamble and stress is high. That’s why I wanted to inspire myself and my team with this blog post about the humble beginnings of some of the most admirable global brands.

Apple. Photo at Top. Founded by Steve Jobs, Ronald Wayne, and Steve Wozniak in 1976. Started out making Do-it-yourself home computer kits.

amazon-1995Amazon. Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994. Started out as an online book retailer.

yahoo-1994Yahoo. Founded by Jerry Yang and David Filo in 1994 as a webpage with a bunch of links.

facebook-2004Facebook. Founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, and Chris Hughes as Harvard University’s web yearbook.

nike-1971Nike. Founded by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight in 1964. Made some basic tennis/running shoes.

hp-1939Hewlett-Packard. Founded by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard in 1939. The mother of all garage startups.

Be inspired!

“Never give up, never surrender!” Galaxy Quest

Sean Lee out!