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.

Nov 14


ensight-moduleBeen working hard on Mashups‘ first product the last 6 months. I named it “ensight“, for event insight. I’m really excited about this product. Ensight is an offline analytics solution. The solution package has 3 parts.

1. The first part is a Bluetooh Low Energy beacon that communicates with receiver beacons and mobile phones.
2. The second part is a native mobile app is used for networking, viewing business cards, and digital brochures.
3. The third part is a cloud based analytics platform. This is where all the data is crunched and stored.

The goal of the ensight is make it possible for sponsors to measure ROI at these large corporate events.

Find out more info by visiting the ensight website.

Sean Lee 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.

Aug 14

Internet of Everything IoE

tiny-chip-golfball-freescaleThree buzzwords for 2014 are iBeacons, Wearable Tech, and Internet of Things (IoT). Actually these terms have been around for at least a couple of years. But we are seeing a lot of traction within the industry. A lot of startups are testing out mashups of these products/services.

tiny-chip-thumbWhen I was a 7, computers were big, heavy, and expensive. At 14 my science teacher told me that one day computer chips will be so inexpensive and small that even a paper cup will house a microchip. Fast forward 22 years and we have the Internet of Everything (IoE).

My team and I are currently working on some applications for the Internet of Things. At MashUps, we hope to build something not for the sake of building tech into it, but for it to be really useful. We want simple solutions. We want automated data. It’s 2014 and we don’t expect people to have to do much to engage with our product/service.

vessyl-smart-cupOne of my favorite products that came out in the last few months is the Vessyl smart cup. Put a chip in a cup and it tells you what you’re drinking. I imagine tupperware or others to follow suit.

I’m going to just list some ridiculously simple everyday products that can possibly integrate a microchip. (Shoe, bag, shopping cart, glasses, chair, toilet, stove, toys, clock, sofa, bed)

The list goes on and on. There you go, you have the starting point for your startup.

Sean Lee out!

Aug 14

I don’t care about Tech or iBeacons

iBeacon-sean-leeI consider myself to be an early adopter. I tend to waste a lot of my disposable income on tech gadgets that become junk after a few months. But I do it cause it’s fun and I think it’s very cool, in a nerdy geekedout way. The products that really grab me are the ones that remove the tech.

What Do I mean by removing tech? Hide it the best you can. Cause honestly, on the consumer or even the B2B side, noone cares about tech. They just want it to work. So basically it’s all about the user experience. It has to work like magic.

How many of you understand how airplanes work? I don’t. You have this huge metal box that forces itself from the ground and slides in the air. Crazy. I don’t want to know the details. I just want it to get me to my destination without crashing.

The highest penetration of any high tech ever much be the mobile phone. Mainly the smart phone. I don’t have hard numbers to support my next statement. But, I think that most people only use about 10-20% of the devices capabilities. People buy the top of the line high performance stuff, but end up only using 10% of the thing.

So, people are stupid. People are lazy. Consumers just want to consume without effort.

Currently I’m working on an iBeacon solution at Mashups LLC. I don’t really educate or polish the Bluetooth Smart tech that is involved. I just want it to work for my user base. Without any type of hurdle or barrier.

Right now, the iBeacon space is basically a mobile app platform with hardware. You have to install an app on your phone. And you get spam notifications about discounts. I see that it can become something different altogether. MashUps LLC’s solution has no app installs. And No spam notification. This eliminates the major barriers for true organic engagement.

I don’t care about the tech. What I love about iBeacon tech is that it is cheap and a single coin cell battery can power it for years.

I’m 36 years old. I left a comfortable job at Samsung to do this startup. I wouldn’t risk my job and family wellbeing to build an app that spams people with 15% off coupons.

Sean Lee out!

Aug 14

MashUps LLC why I left my comfortable Samsung Job to launch my startup

mashups logoI Left my comfortable Samsung job about 3 months ago. I was working as a digital strategist at Cheil Worldwide. I started the job wanting to learn how the big Korean multinational corporation did business. The Chaebol as they are called do things a bit different. In Korea everything is Samsung. They don’t just make cheap plastic Android phones. They make everything. I’m surprised that people in Korea don’t push the government more to break up these monopolies. Anyway, I left the job because I had an itch. And I wasn’t satisfied just being another employee. I dream of bigger things in my life.

The world has gone digital. But there are still a lot of areas and industries that need to convert to digital. I saw an opportunity and I jumped. I’m 36 years old and I figure I have 1 more shot at trying to break out of the pack. People think I’m crazy but I have a good feeling that my company will succeed. That’s why I started MashUps LLC.

Seoul, Korea is an interesting place to live. It’s exciting and full of energy. I moved out here from Chicago about 4 years ago. My wife and I decided that it was time for a change. A few months after the move, my wife got pregnant. I was doing a startup at the time, and I felt too old to be doing a startup. After my son’s first birthday, I decided to join Samsung at Cheil Worldwide.

Fatherhood changed me in a way I can’t explain in words. I feel old. I feel like a real man now. I feel responsible. I feel stress. I feel pride. And I’m scared. Literally, my son will die if I don’t care for him. I’m in charge of a new human being. How crazy is that?

I thought about all of the grownups I knew during my youth. Honestly, I wasn’t impressed with any of them. Very few were special. I don’t want to be that type of person. I understand that most people lead very average lives. But, I can’t let that be me. I want to have freedom to do things my way. I want to have time to spend with my family. I want to work on projects that really interest me. I still have the fire. I haven’t given up.

Working at a big company drains the life out of you. It’s like a cult prison. They give you just enough to survive. They keep your brain stimulated just enough to not kill you.

Starting a company isn’t for everyone. But for the few gamblers out there, it really is the only options. If you dream of a different life, you gotta do a startup.

The time is perfect right now. We are living in the “Smart” everything age. The internet of things (IoT) and wearable tech and all of these cheap sensors that are coming out will really change the digital landscape in the coming months and years. My company MashUps LLC will help big brands implement these technologies. MashUps is an event based promotional platform. We are currently building wearable devices that communicate with our platform to help event organizers operate more efficiently. With out first product, we will use iBeacon technology to help B2B industry events. Please visit the company homepage to learn more about our services.

Sean Lee out.