David Lee and Ryan Kwon, founders of a new startup Mobidoo, had hit the career jackpot by securing lucrative roles in Samsung. But chasing a bigger dream, but have now left to start their own company. While stories like this are still rare, they demonstrate a growing number of Koreans who are embracing the 'Silicon Valley mindset.' These brave young people are embracing the risk and opportunity presented by entrepreneurship instead of treading the well-worn path towards senior roles in Korea's conglomerates.
David and Ryan are former employees of Samsung's Media Solutions Center in Suwon, where they assisted in the roll out of services for smartphones and TVs, as well as seeking potential M&A targets from the startup community that they have now become a part of.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal David explained how he'd come across the idea of founding his own company: “We got to know of a lot of Silicon Valley-based companies and, naturally, I was captivated by the venture culture there and the air of freedom. And thought, I wanted to try something like that too.” His startup, Mobidoo, makes software that allows retail shops to replace paper coupons with an electronic stamp.
In the interview david also said that many Samsung employees in the Media Solutions Center have left the company recently to look for other places–including sstartups–that would be more likely to embrace their innovations.
"Because it’s a global company, doing software is a bit difficult. For example, if it’s an e-book service, you have to make it available to, like, 50 countries,” Mr. Lee said. “In that case, adding a new feature is extremely difficult and hard to do with speed … adding one new function would sometimes take as long as two months.”
He added that, while he was there, working-level employees also had to persuade a lot of executives in charge of various matters including marketing and design to get the ball rolling.
“When you’re starting something, you got to be able to try this and that but that’s not doable. The company is very conscious of the services provided by rival companies, making the process even harder,” Ryan said.
Samsung has a program that encourages employees to take a break of several months to develop new features, but David and Ryan said they both decided to jump ship so that they would be more motivated and driven to see their ideas turn into an actual product.
Now, Samsung represents something different for the two former employees: a potential business partner.
The two men, together with their new colleagues, have held talks with big companies including Samsung about possible partnerships, hoping to give Mobidoo’s business a stable start and a sufficient user base. Samsung's “Wallet,” a feature that allows users to store digital versions of their membership cards and paper coupons on smartphones. They believe partnering with Samsung would help their startup win retail clients for its electronic stamps and software. So far however, nothing has yet materialized on this front.
Mobidoo has recently joined Sparklabs' fourth batch, hoping to accelerate their growth at speed over teh next three months.