Event: Fireside chat with Taekyung (TK) Kim
Founder of Amazing Brewery Company
Host: Startup Grind Seoul
Sponsors: ASAN NANUM Foundation,
Samsung, SparkLabs, Mango Plate
Venue: Maru 180
Date: Thursday, March 22, 2018
How I Learned about the Event
Startup Grind is a global startup community that connects, educates, and inspires entrepreneurs around the world. Powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, Startup Grind chapters can be found in many key cities such as, Bangkok and Tel Aviv (I've been to both) in which chapters organise monthly events hosting an entrepreneur sharing her or his story.
Startup Grind is great for entrepreneurs that frequently travel and curious to connect with people in the local startup ecosystem. And as I was planning my travels to Seoul, I found Startup Grind Seoul and booked my ticket to their latest event that perfectly fit into my schedule.
The event cost 10,500KWN (about 10USD) and guests were provided with food (pizza, cookies, snacks), and beer (free) from the Amazing Brewing Company, whose CEO, Taekyung (TK) Kim, was guest speaker for the fireside chat.
Startup Grind Seoul
What I like about Startup Grind events (or the startup ecosystem in general) is how the primary language is English (there was Korean translation real-time as one of the volunteers was typing the discussion in Korean that projected on screen for all to see). Of course being a native English speaker helps navigate different ecosystems very easy, but when I went to this event I was glad to see a mixed crowd of Koreans and foreigners, of different age groups from young professionals, mid-career professionals, young and middle aged entrepreneurs, and a good balance of men and women.
And before the fireside chat began guest mixed and mingled for an hour. I found it a bit unusual given that the networking usually happens after the events, or briefly before the fireside chat begins, and I just went with it. And it did help that people were a lot more comfortable to talk (given the free beer), so it was easy to approach people.
To my surprise, that night I met three people who worked in the cosmetic industry, two Angel investors, a key player at the SK True Innovation ecosystem, and I had a chance to talk with the Startup Grind Seoul chapter director and assistant organisers.
Being an Entrepreneur
Every entrepreneur has a unique story, with different challenges, and I believe that their success greatly depends on their target market, timing, and consumers taste. If you've been following my blog, I've shared my beliefs that there are 3 types of entrepreneurs. Here it is:
1. Entrepreneurs that come from family money and use family money and connections to build their startup or business.
2. Next, entrepreneurs that worked in lucrative industries, such as finance/banking, then left their industry using their own money and connections, to start her or his own business, (this is the most common entrepreneur I encounter).
3. And lastly, the clever entrepreneur were timing is in her or his favour, has many social and professional connections, works smarter (not harder), passionate, and has a great idea (the rare and most difficult path of entrepreneurship).
Entrepreneur in Korea
For TK Kim, his story is interesting, because he worked in a lucrative industry (at P& G Korea), is well educated as he attended one of Korea's top universities, Seoul National University, and received an MBA from Kellogg School Business, Northwestern University, very passionate about beer, invested time to research to learn everything beer by travelling to Amsterdam, created a blog about beer and breweries he visited, and from his blog was asked to co-author a book (Startup Bible) from a professor he knew who wanted to write about startups for the Korean market (didn't end up finishing his part), all while still working full time for P & G.
So I would put him in category 2 as an entrepreneur, with a bit of category 3 because his passion for beer and challenges as an entrepreneur in Korea; and also because of timing. As TK explained at the time beer in Korea was bad, consumers didn't know exactly how to articulate their distaste, regulations started to change, for example in 2014 there were only 2 Korean breweries with licenses, so for 80 years people have been drinking the same beer! With change and flexibility some people started creating their own breweries, eventually imported beer came into the market, and the timing for him to become an entrepreneur starting a craft beer company couldn't be better.
His Advice to Entrepreneurs
TK Kim shared his experience with fundraising, strategy, and struggles, as a Korean entrepreneur.
Leaving Corporate to become an Entrepreneur
His consulting job, gave him the skills to do research, write reports and become the most knowledgeable person for alcoholic beverages in Korea. Leaving a comfortable corporate job to follow his passion full-time was a decision he was comfortable (personally, financially) making.
He would invite investors to group hubs to taste the beer, see the brand, then present and pitch.
For the Amazing Brewing Company it's about brand and skill, for an early stage startup it's all about brand, since many don't have money and short on resources, he advised startups to build the brand first. And once you have money you can hire the skill needed.
Investors mostly invest in tech, so it was initially a challenge to find investors when you're not a tech company. The next biggest challenge was creating a culture that worked for his diverse team of brewers, cooks, sales, etc., all having different roles as sales people came from the corporate world, whereas the brewers were passionate, young, and more informal in how they communicated.
So as the founder he had to create a culture that wasn't so strict and corporate (in some cases he had to teach some staff how to properly write an email), but had to set standards and principles that provided flexibility, freedom, and creativity.
I always appreciate a good and honest story, and I cannot stress the word honest more because as more and more people are becoming entrepreneurs, many leave out the hardships, privileges, and people that have helped them along their entrepreneurial journey.
TK Kim story as a Korean entrepreneur creating a craft beer business is inspiring and though I'm not a big drinker (I tasted the beer, was quite yummy!), I hope his story builds confidence in other young Koreans to become entrepreneurs.
Thank you Startup Grind Seoul for hosting a great event :)