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.

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

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!

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.

Jul 14

Simple user experience

dumb-and-dumber-toFor me the key to finding success with your startup, app, or campaign is to make it as simple and effortless as possible. Sounds like common sense right? But so many devices, apps, platforms, digital campaigns, and etc.. don’t seem to understand this golden rule.

When I talk to people about this, I always bring up my parents. I bought both my mom and dad, iPads and iPhones. They love it but they probably only use 2% of it. They use it as a phone, do some email, light internet browsing, and kakaotalk(I had to install the app for them). They don’t download apps. They don’t use any of the sensors. They don’t use it. It’s like buying a porsche 911 to just take to the super market. It’s not just my parents. Most of my friends, relatives, and even past coworkers probably only use about 10-20%.

I’m not saying people are stupid. People are lazy. People don’t want to learn another new thing. They don’t want to hassle with it. Rightly so too. We buy these devices to make out lives easier, not to start studying a new language or way of doing.

So, you have to design a product/service/campaign with most of the population in mind. Simple. Intuitive. The mashups have to work for the user right at launch.

I’m big on engagement. If I have to click more than 2 times, you already lost me. I don’t want to dig and google instruction to use your product. I took the time to download the app. I want to open it up and be ready to go.

Don’t stuff features into it. Even if they are killer features. You’ll lose the majority of people who started to engage with your product. Just go with one thing. One screen. One click.

My grandmother and my 2 year old should be able to use it.

Sean Lee out.

Jun 14

Setting up a new tech startup!

Hello world! I’m in the process of setting up my new tech startup. I feel super excited! A little scared but at my age (36), I think it’s good to shake up the heart a tad bit.

I’ve been thinking about launching a new startup for the last year and a half, ever since I started working at Cheil Worldwide. I’m not really a corporate guy. After I decided to leave the comforts and security of Cheil/Samsung, I made the jump.

The last year and a half has been really interesting. I learned a lot about myself. I met a lot of interesting people. And I learned a great deal about how the big corporations do business. Mainly, I learned about the flow of big money.

I didn’t make plan the startup alone. I got permission from my wife. And I a formed a solid team.

For the last 2 months, my team and I have been on full pivot mode. We keep coming up with new ideas or different variations of ideas we’ve had in the past. To be honest, it gets really taxing. I fear that I’m not that smart. I fear that I’m just like everybody else and I should just be happy with a corporate gig.

But fuck it! I’ll be 40 soon. And I ain’t dead yet.

Move fast and break things…and lets see what happens.

Sean Lee